Singapore Airlines (SIA) is currently investigating a case where one of its pilots flew into Bangladesh airspace without being able to provide a clearance number upon request by the local air traffic controllers.
Flight SQ326 was heading from Singapore to Frankfurt, Germany when it passed through Bangladesh airspace at 3.15pm (Singapore time) last Tuesday (19 May), SIA told Channel News Asia.
The flight was reportedly routed via airspace under control of the Dhaka Air Traffic Control (ATC) in order to safely navigate away from the Cyclone Amphan, which has left at least 96 dead in India and Bangladesh.
SIA noted that the routing was shown on the official international flight plan, adding that the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh had given overflight authorisation.
However, the pilot for SQ326 did not relay the flight’s Air Defense Clearance (ADC) number upon request. The ADC number is said to be issued by Bangladesh for every flight.
In a Facebook post by the Bangladesh Defence Analyst last Wednesday (20 May), it was claimed that SQ326 flew over Bangladesh airspace “without permission”, and that military fighter jets “were almost scrambled to intercept the aircraft”.
The post included a live flight tracker broadcast together with an audio recording of an exchange between the SQ326 pilot and the Dhaka air traffic controllers.
Apparently, the SIA aircraft was in a clearly marked ‘Bangladesh Air Defence Identification Zone‘, which covers the entire airspace of Bangladesh’s land and sea borders.
According to the Bangladesh authority, all civil/military aircraft must obtain permission prior to entering the aforementioned zone. Failure to do so will result in the aircraft being intercepted by the Bangladesh air force fighter aircraft.
“If unable to establish and maintain radio communication with appropriate ATS unit, the pilot shall contact the nearest Air Defence Unit on International Guard Frequency 121.50MHz/6826 Hz/500Hz for positive identification prior to entering Bangladesh ADIZ.
“Ultimately SIA is liable for all ramifications,” the Bangladesh Defence Analyst wrote in its post.
Singapore Airlines offers clarification on the incident
In response to the incident, SIA on Monday (25 May) offered clarification as to what led to the close call.
“When Dhaka ATC requested for confirmation of the ADC number, the pilot did not have it immediately available as it had not been retrieved through the flight planning process before the flight departed Singapore.”
The airline stated that the Bangladesh authorities have not made any official contact regarding the incident.
“SIA will, however, proactively launch an investigation into this oversight and tighten its procedures to ensure that there is no repetition,” it added.