Air Asia Engine Failure Sparks Accidental Hijack Response In India

The crew of an Air Asia India flight caused panic among security agencies when they inadvertently sent a hijack alert after the aircraft experienced a technical glitch. The flight, I5715, was traveling from Delhi to Srinagar on Sunday 9th June when the Airbus A320 encountered an engine stall. The plane landed safely on one engine; all passengers and crew are reported to be safe.

Air Asia India
An Air Asia India A320 accidentally sent out an alert that it was being hijacked. Photo: m0ntrealist via Flickr

As a writer, typos are pretty embarrassing, but it’s not the end of the world when they happen. However, in some jobs, pressing the wrong button can have far more serious consequences. A pilot of Air Asia India found out just how serious when they inadvertently sent out a squawk for the plane being hijacked. Oops.

What happened?

The Air Asia India aircraft, an Airbus A320-200 registered as VT-ZXR, was scheduled to operate a flight from Delhi to Srinagar (SXR) in India. The flight, scheduled as I5715, was anticipated to leave Delhi at 06:05, and pushed back just a few minutes late at 06:18.

With 175 people on board, the flight was due to take around an hour and a half, covering 641 km. However, according to the Aviation Herald, as the plane climbed to FL340 the left hand engine stalled. The crew began to squawk the emergency code and started descending to the nearest airport at Chandigarh.

Air Asia India flight I5715
Air Asia India flight I5715. Image: FlightRadar24

At least, that’s what they thought they squawked. The pilot intended to raise an alert for a snag on the plane, but on this particular flight, the crew inadvertently squawked 7500, which is the code for an aircraft being hijacked.

According to the Times of India, a source said,

“At 6.52am, vigilant military controllers saw the emergency code being transmitted from the AirAsia India aircraft that was also descending from its assigned flight level of 34,000 feet without clearance. A few minutes later, Air Asia pilots told the controllers that the A320’s left engine had stalled; that they had sent the wrong code by mistake and finally that they wanted to return to Delhi.”

However, by this point, on the ground ATC and emergency services had already scrambled to initiate the hijacking protocol. Although the crew requested a return to Delhi, it was insisted that they head into Chandigarh to be met by emergency services and police.

The flight landed at Chandigarh (IXC) at approximately 07:30, 40 minutes after leaving FL340.

Chaos at the airport

Unexpectedly deplaning 175 passengers is not good news for any airline, and for Air Asia India is seems it was a mammoth task to fix. Passengers reported chaotic scenes at the airport as inconvenienced travelers demanded information about when they would be connected onwards.

Despite Chandigarh being only around 250km from Delhi, it took Air Asia India a ridiculous amount of time to reconnect their passengers. Some reported still being stranded at the airport late into the afternoon.

According to the Times Now News, Air Asia India did not manage to secure an onward connection for the passengers until after 4pm. In a statement, the airline said,

“The flight from Chandigarh to Srinagar departed at 4.40 pm the same day. We reiterate that we place safety and security foremost in all aspects of operations and apologise for the inconvenience caused,”

However, it’s likely the inconvenience to passengers was only the tip of the iceberg. According to Travel and Tour, the agencies involved in the emergency response were extensive. They included the Central Industrial Security Force (CRPF), the Delhi Police, the National Security Guard and other agencies.

Now that’s got to be one embarrassed pilot.