Flight diverted to Chennai as Sri Lanka closes airspace
An Ethiopian Airlines flight (ET638), operating on the Addis Ababa-Singapore-Kuala Lumpur sector, was diverted to Chennai on Thursday, after Sri Lanka closed its airspace for some time in connection with the Agni-V missile test off the coast of Odisha.
The twin-engine aircraft, a Boeing 787-8 (ET-ATK), left Addis Ababa at 2.30 a.m. (India time). Five hours into its approximately nine-hour flight, while approaching Thiruvananthapuram, the crew were unable to continue flying on the allotted track across central Sri Lanka and its oceanic region, and the flight was diverted to Chennai. It landed here at 8.51 a.m. and later took off for Singapore at 12.35 p.m.
Confirming the incident, a spokesperson for the airline told The Hindu that it had nothing to do with the airline and that Colombo’s airspace had been closed.
A senior official of the Chennai airport said that in accordance with standard procedures, the Indian civil aviation authorities had issued a notice a week ago to all neighbouring countries and airline operators, informing them about the missile launch window and the danger zones in the Bay of Bengal/Indian Ocean area. As a result, parts of the southern and the oceanic airspace had been closed. The official added that the diversion of the Ethiopian Airlines flight was the only one to have taken place in connection with the long-range ballistic missile test.
A note put out by Sri Lankan Airlines said that a few of its flights between Colombo and key destinations in the Far East on January 18 had been rescheduled following the closure of Indian airspace for “an experimental flight launch.”