KARACHI: Pakistan has denied reports that any unauthorized US military aircraft entered Pakistan airspace on Monday morning and said a plane was heading toward Pakistan but stopped short of entering its airspace.
“Relevant department have informed me that no aircraft entered Pakistan’s limits. In our record, no airplane has crossed our airspace,” said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesperson Ismail Khoso.
Khosa said there are air spaces of other countries besides Pakistan about which the CAA could not say anything. We must have noticed any aircraft if it had entered Pakistan’s limits, he added.
The Aviation Division Senior Joint Secretary and spokesperson Abdul Sattar Khokhar said Muscat authorities informed Pakistan on Nov 18 at 9:15am that an aircraft was flying towards Pakistan airspace.
“However, the plane did not enter our airspace and remained in international airspace. The airspace authorities contacted the airplane for identification but it did not respond either,” he added.
Flight Information Region (FIR) of Muscat – Oman’s port capital – had informed Karachi FIR about the aircraft nearing Pakistan airspace. “The aircraft was of the US origin. However, I cannot confirm if it was a military plane – a fighter or a bomber – or a transport plane,” Khokhar added
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He said Muscat FIR just performed its duty to inform Pakistan that an aircraft was to enter its airspace which is a normal day procedure. “We don’t know whether it flew from Muscat airport or not. Muscat FIR had informed Karachi FIR that an unidentified aircraft was heading towards Pakistan airspace limits.”
Pakistan’s airspace extends to more than 100 nautical miles or 200 kilometer in its south to the Indian Ocean, said an expert who has served the CAA for almost two decades and wishes to stay anonymous.
It airspace starts at two points – at Jiwani, near Iran boarder and at ALPOR on the Oman-Pakistan border in the west. At the former point aircraft from Iran enter Pakistan while at the latter point aircraft coming from Oman airspace enter Pakistan.
“Oman has US military airbases, which is a known fact,” he said.
He said these aircraft operate on the Indian Ocean and sometimes make mistake and enter other countries without permission.
However, this is not a big deal and happens many times.
“Pilots of military aircraft don’t have as much understanding of airspace as like civilian airplane crew. These are civil procedures and military people can make this mistake.
“However, when an aircraft enters airspace of any country its radars detect it and then the aircraft is given call to give its identity, which seems to be the recent case with Pakistan. It is so normal these days. These little incidents are being reported otherwise it’s a normal thing,” he said.
The aircraft may have taken off from the US military aircraft carrier positioned in maritime boundary in the Sea of Oman instead of Muscat airport. Still that was responsibility of Muscat FIR to inform Pakistan so as to avoid any incident as two aircraft can collide if prior information is not available.
Daily, 700 to 1,000 flights fly over Pakistan’s airspace including civilian commercial aircraft which pay fees of using the airspace and the CAA maintains their data, said the Aviation Division spokesperson.