Air India has launched a probe after a plastic wrapper of a stun grenade was found in a Boeing 747 aircraft on arrival in Jeddah on Friday evening.
Following the incident the airline has also suspended officials from its security department and orders have been issued to suspend staff from ground handling department who were handling the aircraft. Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju will also be holding a review with ministry officials to ensure such incidents do not take place.
The wrapper was found by the airline’s cabin crew after the plane landed and the incident raises a question mark over the airline’s and airport security procedures.
While a top AI official said the item in question was a plastic wrapper of a stun grenade, an another aviation source said the suspicious object was a used stun grenade.
Stun grenade are non-explosive devices and used to disorient targets. Air India officials suggest the stun grenade was used by security agencies while carrying out mock drill in the plane.
The aircraft flew from Mumbai and halted in Hyderabad on its way to Jeddah. The plane was kept on stand by for a day in Delhi when Prime Minister Narendra Modi departed for the US. It returned to Mumbai on September 26.
“According to the International Civil Aviation Security Organisation’s guidelines, a security and engineering check has to be carried out by an airline before each departure from base. A security check is also carried during a transit halt. If indeed the object is a stun grenade, how did it get into the aircraft?” said an aviation security expert.
While frisking passengers and checking cabin baggage at airports is the job of the Central Industrial Security Force, it is the airline's responsibility to guard aircraft before departure. “Air India’s Flight AI965 of October 3, 2014, operated on the sector Mumbai-Hyderabad-Jeddah. On landing at Jeddah, the cabin crew found a suspicious object and informed the authorities concerned. After screening the aircraft and the object, which was found to be a plastic wrapper, the Jeddah airport security cleared the aircraft for further operations thereafter,” the airline said in a statement.
Air India said a committee comprising its joint managing director and joint commissioner of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security had been set up to investigate the incident. At no point of time was the safety of the passengers or the aircraft compromised, the airline added.
Two managers from Air India's security department in Mumbai and Hyderabad have been suspended. Orders have also been issued for suspension of ground handling officers as well as security supervisors, sources said.