It’s same scene ‘bees saal baad’: IC814 pilot | India News - Times of India

It’s same scene ‘bees saal baad’: IC814 pilot | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: “Bees saal baad, ya bees saal pehle?” Images of Taliban militia taking control of Kabul earlier this week left Devi Sharan, captain of the hijacked erstwhile Indian Airlines IC 814 in December 1999, wondering as he watched the events unfold on TV. For there was no change in the visuals now from what he recalls seeing through cockpit of the hijacked Airbus A300 that had remained parked in Kandahar for almost a week.
“They are roaming around in open jeeps with rocket launchers on Kabul streets, just like they did when surrounding our aircraft in Kandahar. It was as if nothing has changed,” Captain Sharan (59), who recently retired fom Air India, told TOI.
What were the Taliban like? Sharan, a national hero who remained calm during those tumultuous days, recalled an incident to describe that. “On the second or third day in Kandahar, a diabetic passenger took very ill. The Taliban took him to a hospital on our request. This passenger returned to the aircraft the same day as the situation in the hospital was very bad and he didn’t feel safe there,” he said.
Captain S P S Suri, who travelled on an IA Airbus A320 relief flight from Delhi to Kandahar with negotiators and a team of extra crew members on December 26, 1999, had spent another night there after the crew and passengers left on the evening of December 31. He was left behind with Captain J R D Rao and two engineers to fly back the hijacked A330. “‘Hamara commander bolta hai hum nahin jaane denge tak isme se hamara ek tohfa nahin utaroge. Cargo hold kholo’,” Captain Suri recalls the Taliban telling him. There was a bag in the cabin in which valuables taken from passengers were kept. Suri thought they are talking about that bag.
They, instead, force opened the aircraft’s cargo hold and took one particular check-in bag from there. “This possibly had explosives times for the Millennium which were detonated at the far end of Kandahar Airport. We could hear the loud boom,” Suri says.
On the morning of January 1, 2000 — by when Taliban had let the hijackers go — Captain Suri said he wanted to leave but was denied permission to take off. After landing in Kandahar, Suri (64) — who retried from AI in 2014 and now flies with SpiceJet — and the 25-30 other crew members used to sleep in the A320. But on December 31, that aircraft took off for Delhi and sleeping inside the hijacked A300 that had terrible stench by then was not possible for the four IA crew left behind. “Taliban said rooms in Kandahar airport were taken by the hijackers and ISI.” They allowed the four of us to spend the night by a bonfire in a verandah. “We were shivering there. ‘Sardar, badaam kha le. Raat kat jayegi’, Taliban leader Mullah Omar told us while giving we four almonds,” said Suri.
The next (January 1) morning, an air traffic controller told this four-member crew that they will not get permission to leave for India. “The plane battery was at 7%. Taking Wahe Guru’s name, we started one engine and it miraculously came to life. While taxiing out, we started the other engine. The ATC kept telling us we didn’t have clearance to take off but we got airborne anyway,” Suri said.
Pakistan ATC warned the aircraft did not have permission to overfly. And the crew of Delhi-bound IC 814 (D) — a delayed flight in aviation parlance — kept saying they were unable to hear anything. “The best thing we heard was IAF controller telling us ‘welcome home, you are cleared straight for Delhi,’ just before entering the Indian airspace,” Suri recalled.
He had got married in the summer of 1999 and had operated a Sharjah-Calicut-Mumbai-Delhi flight on December 26 when asked if he would be on an aircraft to Kandahar to fly back the hijacked A300. “I said yes at the airport itself because I felt my family will not allow me to do so if I went home,” Suri said.

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