Flight: Indian Airlines IC 892
Source: Delhi IGI T3
Destination: John F Kennedy T2 NYC
Type of plane: Boeing 747
No of passengers: 320
including hostesses and stewards.
Cockpit: One pilot and a co-pilot.
Time: 09:00 hrs.
Date: November 25, 2001
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain Sukhwinder Sodhi welcoming you aboard IC 892, bound New York at nine hundred hours. We are all ready to take off.
We wish you a very happy and a comfortable journey.” were the words, the pilot in command, Sukhwinder spoke on the morning of November 25 morning.
There was an air of happiness and excitement inside the craft. The weather was clear and the ambience was cool. The 32 meters wide runway, boasted of being one of the safest runways, was aglow with neon lights with a jet black tar coal covering over it; giving a shining mirage illusion at some places with runway birds chirping over the plane.
Soon, the plane readjusted itself on the runway. Accelerating on the tarmac; it gained a certain velocity to take off smoothly. After ascending to a certain height, the passengers were requested to hook off their seat belts. IC892 was now completely air bound…and cruising along.
Inside the craft, there was a motley crowd of passengers. There were a bunch of youngsters, some with headphones around their neck listening to the rap while shaking their neck back and forth, others with a shinning magazine about the latest computer gadgets, chirping among themselves. There was a group of elderly people taking their regular medicine outta their
handbags and blushing on some joke cracked by one of their fellow mates.
There was a group of honeymoon couples, some busy whispering, others
communicating non-verbally through eyes. There was a Parsi family, whose
kids were busy racing ‘to-and-fro’. There was a group of ‘Sardarji’s’, talking among themselves in a high pitched tone giving a wrong impression
to others as if they were actually fighting. There was also a group of
senior executives and CEOs in their black shining Armani’s with laptops
on their chair-head in business class, seriously indulged in their
“business talks”. In a log, it perceived like a small town with medley
group of people, some were on their way back home, some were on a
‘month-vacation’, some were sitting with their ‘chin-up’, boasted and
excited, as they were going first time to the U.S, some were on their
way to meet their children there and some were on a business trip. The
whole arena was giving a sense of morning calm like, an early dawn of a
sunny day in chilly winters.
The stewards and hostesses were busy serving the passengers happily while Sukhwinder and the co-pilot had their little conversation…
Sukh: What are your plans at NYC young man?
Co-Pilot: Since we are gonna stay there for a day sir, I am
gonna meet one of my old Indian friends there. He’s in NYPD right now
serving New York City. And of course, most importantly, am going to buy
some jewelry and stuff for “her”. Hope you understand what am talking about sir.
Sukhwinder had hitherto been a very caring and a concerned husband. He remembered the time when he got married. He was in his early 20′s and joined the IAF as a fighter trainee. They both
went on a honeymoon to Kerala. The back-waters, the boat-house, the
beach…everything was very clear in his, otherwise occupied, mind as if
all this was live, not much time ago. The nostalgia could easily be
spotted over his smiling face.
Sukh: (Blushing) Hope “she” is good and you are taking
good care of her (speaking in an Americano accent with both hands giving
an inverted comma to the “SHE” word). It’s been only one month since your marriage right?
Co-Pilot: (Smiling and Nodding) Yeah.
Sukh: (Exclaimed yet concerned) And you joined your flight so soon!
Before the co-pilot could respond to Sukh’s exclamation, there was a rattle inside the cockpit indicating some
inactivity. The alarm signaled red light intermittently, blinking an
emergency inside the cargo chamber. This activity was not usual. In
fact, Sukhwinder had experienced this the first time throughout his 15yrs
of flying. From jet planes to fighter, freight cargos to
choppers and passenger planes, he had flown nearly everything. He still
remembered a lecture of his mentor during one of his training classes about this alarm and remembered that it can’t be ignored and can prove malicious if not given immediate attention.
The Boeing was better than any of the Air Bus and offered luxury that even the costliest of flights did not offer, the cargo chamber too was under the total surveillance of CC
cameras. Sukhwinder’s heart skipped a beat when he surveyed the stills
and motions of the arena. There were four men with a black turban and a
weird cloth around their body, with a sketched logo of some terror
outfit; fully loaded with guns, arms and ammunitions. People usually
get goose bumps during such situations or some suffer from a mental
block worsened by hyperventilation, but Sukhwinder kept a cool head and
reacted quickly for he was a former fighter pilot and the seed inside
him favoring his army instincts was still flourishing. ‘How the hell did
these people manage to get inside the cargo hold. This felony is a job
of some bloody insider I tell you’.
Aw…these guys look like shit,
he thought. !!!
The cockpit door was left open by the hostess who served coffee to the commanders some time ago, which was closed and sealed tightly by the co pilot following Sukhwinder’s order. It was
13:00 hrs and IC 892 was close to one of the biggest and busiest airports —
Dubai International Airport – Dubai (UAE). Sukhwinder
immediately activated his radio and tried to contact the airport’s ATC,
fortunately, the connection was established.
Sukh: “Hello this is the captain of IC892, we took off
from Delhi IGI declaring emergency. Can you hear me?”
There was an immediate response from the ATC-”Yes sir, we are listening. Go ahead.”
Sukh: “We need to land the craft immediately. It’s a hijack situation! Do you copy me?”
ATC: (After 3 to 4 seconds’ gap) “Alright sir, you are clear to land on T5 runway no 4. Copy me!”
Sukh: (Saw terrorists surging towards the
cockpit) ”Oh Shit!”
ATC: “Sir; Do you need any logistic support. I repeat, do you require any logistics?”
Sukh: (His voice was low as if the body is short of
oxygen) “Yes we need your special commandos, ambulances and a fire
brigade as well…”
ATC: We have a fire brigade on stand-by sir. Copy that!
Soon after which the contact broke.
Sukhwinder could see the runway fully abut with neon lights so as to make the path very
clear as Dubai was under the blanket of thick fog and mist at that time.
The rest of the air traffic was blocked understanding the criticality of
the situation and other planes were ordered for a ‘go-around’. The
flight was merely 2-3 minutes away from the runway airspace and
Sukhwinder signaled the chaft to open the aircraft’s wheels when
suddenly, the terrorists opened fire on some of the passengers aboard in
order to create panic and utter chaos inside so that the fight could
not land. The obituary list was increasing in length. They communicated
through the cockpit controller, warning them to open the door or else, the
commanders would themselves be responsible for the massacre. Before
Sukhwinder could command anything, the co-pilot out of panic and fear
opened the cockpit door. Sukhwinder thought to mend the matter through
negotiation before any other causality but it was too late.
One AK47 was pinning the co-pilot’s temple, who was showing a strong resistance to
the attackers. Being a young guy in his early twenties, the red blood
was hot and boiling for bravery. He just could not accept this
situation, he could not wait and watch what was happening and let
himself surrender to them. He suddenly showed his move and tried to
snatch his gun. Infuriated by this, the other attacker pointed his gun
at his forehead and incited the trigger. Before Sukhwinder could do
anything, it was too late.
The Co-Pilot was shot dead in between the eyes on the forehead and a sudden gush of blood sprayed out. He died on the
spot with some blood drops spilled over the wind screen as well leaving
half the cockpit red blooded. He was bleeding profusely.
Due to all of this sudden uproar, there was commotion in the whole plane. IC892 was
shaking mid-air due to the brouhaha of the fellow passengers. I have
never seen tears in Sukhwinder’s eyes but this time, he was crying, he
was crying out of pain, he was crying out of anger with tears all over
his face. His body was acquired by numbness and he couldn’t feel
anything. But he was the captain of this ill fated flight and those 320
passengers had Sukhwinder as their last and only hope.
Faces of all the passengers turned pale due to fear. Children were crying and
elders were praying. The Parsi family took out their amulet out, which
they believe to be a talisman of peace, and stared rolling over their
fingers, murmuring some verses in Parsi. A normal soft hearted person
could have easily broken down looking at the inferno inside the plane.
But Sukhwinder acted bravely on his nerves. The flight was now some
seconds behind landing when Sukhwinder was forced to take off. Now what
do you expect from a man, who is the only commander left with a fully
loaded magazine on his temple. The craft’s wheels were merely some
meters above the runway when Sukhwinder tried to lift the plane.
“Its difficult to lift the aircraft now sir, we might crash!!” Exclaimed Sukhwinder.
it off you dumb fool … or else, am gonna scare the shit out of you …
understand” replied the terrorist.
Difficult it was though, he managed to give an upward elevation but unfortunately, the chaft’s covering shell got
ruptured by striking the ATC’s radar tower. There were fire sparkles and
pandemonium that was all, one could view from that height.
After reaching a certain height, Sukhwinder was told to contact the Indian embassy at
the UAE so as to set some negotiation parameters with the then Indian
ambassador Mr. K C Singh and National
Security Advisor Mr. Brajesh Mishra. By that time, no
one in India had any idea about the takeover of IC892 Boeing until there
reached an email from the banned terror outfit LeT to the then
secretary of state Mr. Jaswant Singh. Mr. K C Singh,
soon after a horrid argument with one of the hijackers contacted the
Parliament. Sukhwinder sneaked some conversation between the other
hijackers about hijacking a Port Louis bound flight from Delhi IGI
following which he tried to contact the IGI ATC but, the attempt went in
vain. His courage didn’t lag even after this abortive connection, and
he contacted his friend Mann, who was the ATC chief at the Chandigarh airport.
“Hello Mann, this is Sukhwinder from IC892. We have been hijacked! Get
me to the Palam’s ASAP. It’s an emergency.”
Mann: “Roger that sir, give me a minute.”
The cockpit was occupied only by Sukhwinder that time when the radio ablative indicated
of some incoming connection:
“Hello captain, this is Palam’s ATC chief this
end. Can you hear me? What’s the situation there?”
Sukh: “Its pathetic sir. The co-pilot has been shot dead along with some casualties in the economy class as well.”
Palam: “Alright, we are set to negotiate with them…”
(Interrupting)” Do you have any Port Louis bound flight scheduled at
Palam: (after a pause) “Affirmative”.
Sukh: “Cancel your Port Louis flight, it’s prone to skyjack… I repeat, cancel your Mauritius flight…….”
The connection again broke soon after with many Sisypheanic attempts of re-connecting.
IC892 was above Oman’s airspace and it was 15:00hrs on the clock but with still no reply
from the Indian government. White house was busy with its democratic
politics. In India, it was the ruling party against the
opposition with some consoling press conferences at the Press
Information Bureau hall in Shastri Bhavan. “Hungry-for-news” media
persons were happy, for they got their new masala to cook for another week by cursing the government and giving some people, a relief from
their cheap ‘saas-bahu aur saajish; episodes, and top notch beaurocrats
were busy with their dirty corruption statistics. A man could be
spotted outside 7, Race Course Road all day long only watching BMWs and
Camry’s back and forth the PMO. It seemed that everything fell on deaf ears and as if no one was shell bothered about the ill fated craft and
fortune of on board passengers, which was hanging amidst the airspace. The aircraft was running out of aviation fuel and required immediate re-fuelling. The plane was forced to land at Muscat’s Seeb
International airport. Comprehending the criticality of the
situation, Indian embassy at Muscat along with other consulates rushed
to the spot. India’s lack of communication with the Muscutian
authorities further complicated negotiations between Indian authorities
and the hijackers. LeT moved its well-armed fighter men near the
hijacked aircraft in an attempt to prevent Indian Special Forces from
storming the aircraft. With pressure of the Muscat government along with
the other Indian consulates, the plane was re-fuelled but after
offloading 25 passengers on board, mostly of whom were ladies and
children. The craft took off shortly after that.
The plane was out of Oman’s airspace; after flying for two hrs and it was 17:00 hrs IST
ticking with the aerometer indicating French airspace ahead. It was
then, when the Indian government radioed IC892 captain about LeT’s
“Hello there, this is the protocol manager of the (CMG) Crisis Management Group-Delhi. We got a confirmed report from
the RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) that their plan is to divert the
aircraft towards New Mexico. NIA-USA (National Investigation Agency) has
also given positive confirmations on the same. We request you to try
your best not to let this happen because if the plane goes beyond
Europe, it would be very difficult for us to negotiate. We have also
requested the French government to gird their fighter planes around
IC892 in order to create an air of pressure around them.
You copy me?”
Sukh: “Roger sir, copy that! I request you to do
something concrete ASAP before it’s too late.”
As soon as the craft entered the French airspace, French fighter planes took off and
girded the plane in order to create panic amongst the terrorists and put
them under pressure so as to land the plane on Paris’ Charles
De’Gaulle International Airport. With all the best efforts one
could ever possibly apply, all that went in vain when the plane was out
of their airspace.
Sukhwinder deciphered the whole situation understanding that there isn’t any way out as nothing was working in
their favor and that; it was his turn against the wrongdoers.
It was then, when Sukhwinder’s head was struck with a weird idea.
Adjunct to cockpit was the business class with nearly 50 passengers with two terrorists
while the other two were in the economy. Sukhwinder sneaked, and had a
furtive eye communication with a bulbous passenger, who was fat enough
to grab 3-4 under his ass. Waiting for the felicitous moment, ingenious
Sukhwinder rolled the ‘Auto-Pilot’ button ‘ON’. It was
in a click of second when both Sukhwinder and that passenger grabbed two
terrorists and slit one of their throat with an archaic knife, which
Sukhwinder always kept in his socks for safety reasons and the other was smashed on his head. Sukhwinder had never seen this much blood and he seemed to be little bit under aversion for this murder, but
this can easily be consoled under the base reflecting humanitarian
The count has now come down to two.
passengers aboard, tons of loads of freight, 48000 ft above the ground
level and at 1000km/hr with 2 gunmen still alive, IC892 was flying
autonomously with no commanding officer able to decide its plight.
The bodies of both the assailants were hid inside the garbage holder dock of the business class section. Sukhwinder quickly came back and grabbed his seat in the cockpit in the nick of time in
order, not to give any hint about the killings.
“Kaha hai mere
bhai (where are my brothers?)” asked one of the hijackers in a concrete
tone to Sukhwinder after banking on his gut feeling about sensing
“Vo log niche cargo yard me gaye hai (They
went downstairs in the cargo yard)” replied Sukh in a confident tone.
He ordered his
only left ‘brother’ to go downstairs and look out for them. Sukh
recognized this as the second opportunity to get him under the belt.
After the killing of the other two hijackers, the passengers had also
gained some confidence and courage to fight and were in fact eager to
get hold of the third one. “I got him captain” shouted that fatty
“bhai … wo dono niche nahi
aaeee, kaha hai mere bhai
bol nahi to uda dunga … (they aren’t there
downstairs………aaeee, where are my brothers, speak you m******** or
else am gonna kill you)?” blurted the last man standing after stepping
up the cargo hold only to find none of his fellow mates, putting his
gun over Sukh’s temple, in a very apprehensive tone clearly signaling
that, he’s skeptical whether, he would be able to save his buttocks !!!
It took not more than 5 minutes for the passengers standing behind him to grab his mouth
and asphyxiate him.
IC892 was now free of any foreign control and a huge wave of happiness and cheer gushed through the craft. The flight
landed safely on the Heathrow Airport – London. Soon after the landing,
the British commandos and the counter terrorist unit took over the
charge and evacuated the flight. The ambulance and the fire brigades,
that was on stand-by handled the situation thereafter smoothly. Everyone
was happy, but no-one could spot the real hero of the arena,
All the eyes were searching him and media eye-balls were rolling left to right for his speech. But, no one could
2 years later:
Birds chirping over an almost-broken house in the outskirts of Patiala and no one inside
the house could be spotted. Sukhwinder lay down there in the lawn;
remotely away from the main entrance in an almost broken bedstead of
woven webbing (charpai) facing the sky and his eyes as
if stuck somewhere amidst the huge unending sky. There wasn’t any motion
in his body but…his face was wet. He was crying silently with
tears rolling over down his eyes like pearls and covering the whole
face. He was crying profusely … but silently laying on the bed and
thinking about the dead co-pilot, HIS ONLY SON!