Pakistan F-16 jets escorted SpiceJet Boeing 737 aircraft in September

Representative Image
Pakistan Air Force F-16 planes escorted a Kabul-bound SpiceJet Boeing 737 aircraft in September in a case of mistaken identity. The incident took place amid heightened tensions between two neighbours.

Sources said Pakistan Air Force intercepted the SpiceJet plane operating a Delhi-Kabul flight following a mix-up over its identity. The plane was identified as an Indian Air Force aircraft and then escorted by the Pakistani jets till it exited its airspace. “It was an uneventful flight thereafter. No one was injured. The incident was reported to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the pilot was debriefed,” said an official aware of the matter.

Air traffic controllers track aircraft with help of a radar. Aircraft are fitted with transponders that assist in radar identification. Each aircraft is assigned a particular transponder code.  During flight pilots use call signs to communicate with air traffic controllers. 

According to a newswire report, there were 120 passengers on board the flight. It added that the pilots of the Indian aircraft were asked to reduce their altitude which they complied with.

Pakistan had shut its airspace in February after an Indian air strike within Pakistan territory that month. The restrictions were eased and airspace opened for Indian aircraft in July.