An Air India flight from Delhi to San Francisco was forced to divert and land at an airport in Russia’s Far East after developing a technical issue with one of its engines. The Boeing 777 widebody aircraft was carrying 216 passengers and 16 crew members. Despite the diversion, Air India said it planned to send another plane to pick up the passengers and fly them to their original destination. In the meantime, the passengers were being offered support on the ground and accommodated in local hotels for the night. The authorities are extending all cooperation to ensure that passengers reach their destination safely at the earliest.
US Citizens On Board
The diversion of the Air India flight has raised concerns about American citizens on board. The U.S. State Department’s Deputy Spokesman, Vedant Patel, said that it is “likely” that there are Americans onboard, given the flight’s intended destination. Patel also stated that the U.S. is aware of the situation and is monitoring it closely. The airline, however, said it couldn’t share any details about the passengers.
Questions Over Repairs and Sanctions
The emergency landing of the Boeing 777 also raises questions about repairs and sanctions. The $200-million aircraft, a high-profile U.S.-built plane with engines made by General Electric, needs repair as soon as possible. However, the U.S. and European Union have placed sanctions on aviation item exports to Russia. The incident is reminiscent of a similar situation in 2018 when a Norwegian Air Boeing 737 made an emergency landing in Iran with engine problems weeks after Washington re-imposed sanctions. The stranded passengers were able to fly out the next day, but the engine venture had to wait weeks for a U.S. Treasury export license. GE Aerospace said it was aware of the incident and was working with Air India to resolve the issue concerning the Boeing 777.
Russian Airspace Debate
The diversion of Air India’s Boeing 777 flight has reopened the debate over the use of Russian airspace by some carriers, with the Chief of United Airlines warning of the dangers of a plane being forced to land in Russia with American citizens on board. Russia has barred U.S. airlines and other foreign carriers from using its airspace in retaliation for Washington banning Russian flights over the United States in March 2022 after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine. Despite this, Air India and some Gulf-based, Chinese, and African carriers continue to fly over Russia, making flying times shorter and American rivals uncompetitive. In February, U.S. senators urged the Biden administration to halt Chinese airlines and other non-American carriers from flying over Russia on U.S. routes. Reuters reported last week that Chinese airlines are avoiding using Russian airspace in four newly approved flights to and from the United States. Despite the incident, Air India has continued to fly over Russia, with four flights over the country on Tuesday afternoon, according to FlightRadar24.
The emergency landing of Air India’s Boeing 777 flight in Russia has raised concerns about the use of Russian airspace, the safety of American citizens on board, and the challenges of repairs and sanctions. Despite this, Air India plans to send another plane to fly the passengers to their original destination. The incident highlights the critical role the aviation industry plays in connecting economies, people, and cultures.