PM Modi's Seaplane Ride Violated SPG Blue Book, Guidelines on VIP Travel

The Kodiak seaplane that the prime minister flew in is a single-engine aircraft, while norms require him to travel in a twin-engine aircraft.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended the campaign for the second phase of Gujarat assembly polls on Tuesday by taking a seaplane ride from the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad to Dharoi Dam in north Gujarat. However, his “unique” single-engine seaplane flight was a violation of the Special Protection Group’s (SPG) Blue Book which lays down security guidelines for the protection of the prime minister, according to an SPG officer.

While the prime minister seemed to have enjoyed every bit of the ride on the Sabarmati, his actions clearly left the SPG red-faced.

Apart from violation of the Blue Book, Modi also violated the spirit behind the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) guidelines which clearly states that ministers, SPG protectees and other dignitaries should only fly in aircrafts that meet certain standards of operation.

The prime minister flew in an untested aircraft with a foreign pilot which also violates DGCA guidelines.

Twin engine aircraft mandatory 

The air safety circular (ASC) on VIP air travel, issued by the DGCA in 2002, lays down the manner in which VIP protectees should travel. Clause 2.4.2 of the ASC says, “Type of aircraft/helicopter for carriage of VIPs shall be in accordance with Air Safety Circular 2 of 1981 and Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines”. As per Clause 1.1 of ASC 2 of 1981, a VIP aircraft should be a “twin-engined aircraft with good operational capability, reliability, and easy maintainability characteristics should be used”.

However, Modi chose to fly by a Quest Kodiak 100 single engine seaplane which is registered (No. N181KQ) in Salt Lake City, US. The ten-seater aircraft with a single Pratt & Whitney engine clearly does not qualify as per the DGCA guidelines.

While India has spent and continues to spend billions of rupees for its prime minister’s safety – India is likely to get the new Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft for use of the president, vice-president and prime minister by the second half of 2018 – the prime minister’s flight was a breach of safety protocol.

It is noteworthy that a team of eight pilots fly the Air Force aircraft carrying the US president and four of them remain onboard at all times during the flight.

DGCA has repeatedly flagged violations 

The DGGA has repeatedly flagged violations of security guidelines by VIPs and SPG protectees. Its ASC 2, issued in 2014, had raised the issue of VIP security, saying “VIPs, SPG protected persons and other important persons of eminence in public life use air travel frequently for electioneering and other purposes in small aircraft/ helicopters of private/non-scheduled operators.”

The prime minister flew in an untested aircraft with a foreign pilot which also violates DGCA guidelines. Credit: PTI

Referring to several “challenges of election flying”, it had noted that an “analysis of earlier accidents/incidents associated with small aircraft/helicopter operations from airstrips/temporary helipads and past experience of election flying by the operators has revealed that laid down instructions were violated time and again and safety was jeopardised”.

Omar Abdullah questions move

Prime Minister Modi took to Twitter to describe his flight: “Earlier today, I travelled on a seaplane from Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati River to Dharoi Dam, taking off and landing on water. This experience was unique. It adds strength to our resolve to harness waterways for India’s progress.”

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, posting a picture of the seaplane waiting at the jetty, wondered how the top security for the prime minister had been relaxed for him to take the seaplane. “How is it that the security guidelines were relaxed for this flight? No Z+ protectee is allowed to fly in a single engine aircraft, much less the PM of our country,” he tweeted.

Abdullah also raised the issue of foreign pilots flying the prime minister in a single engine plane, dropping sufficient hints about what he thought was a major security breach. “Single engine plane. Foreign pilots. Is there any security guideline that will not be thrown out today?” he asked.

While the Congress dubbed the prime minister’s seaplane ride a “hawa-hawai”, the BJP probably appeared inane towards the entire question of security. Union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari told ANI, “Today is a historical day as the Prime Minister traveled in a seaplane. Seaplane is a revolutionary factor in the field of transport. It will be a big revolution in the transport sector as India has huge potential.”

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