Kolkata: The captain of the Air India flight that was held up for an hour at Dhaka airport on August 8 has conceded that he did order Hilsa to take it home, but denies the delay was on account of him. He blamed the airline’s security officer and country manager for the delay.
In a clarification to the AI management, Captain Rajesh Kuyeskar admitted he had indeed requested a member of the airline’s contractual ground staff to get him raw Hilsa, a national fish of Bangladesh. “This is not the first time a pilot has made such a request. In fact, many pilots over the past couple of decades have carried home Hilsa from Bangladesh when they operate flights to the country,” he said.
According to Kuyeskar, he was engaged in pre-flight formalities for the Kolkata-Dhaka sector when he received a call from the security officer and stepped out of the aircraft. He was told at the aerobridge that the packet of Hilsa would not be allowed as it was a contraband and had been brought in without permission.
“When I asked him to furnish the regulation prohibiting the carriage of Hilsa, he simply said there was some regulation by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) but failed to provide any details. I later learnt that CAAB does not allow a large quantity of fish to be carried in the cabin, not a few kilograms,” he said.
At this point, Kuyeskar claims, he walked back to the flight deck to complete preflight briefing. It is then that the situation became complicated with the security officer, who had — till a few minutes ago — stopped the entry of the Hilsa package, allegedly escorted the ground staffers with the package right into the cockpit to hand it over to the pilot to apparently avoid delay and heartburn.
“My co-pilot and I were alarmed at the action of the officer. He brought the package into the aircraft cockpit in brazen contravention of the very rules he had been stating. I asked them to immediately leave the flight deck with that package as it did not belong to anyone and requested for the Aircraft Release Certificate so that we could fly out. But it was not brought for another 25 minutes, keeping passengers and crew members waiting. Once the formalities were over, we pushed back in a minute. It is all there in the CCTV footage of the aircraft and the cockpit voice recorder,” the captain said.
The pilot alleged that the entire charade was played out to pin the blame on the contractual staffers. “I have urged the AI management to constitute an independent inquiry to establish the truth,” he told Times Of India, an independent newspaper.