Ghaziabad: Two Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots flying a two-seater trainer aircraft of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) had a narrow escape as they had to make an emergency landing on a busy stretch of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) in Ghaziabad on Thursday afternoon.

The NCC spokesperson from Delhi said the aircraft, a Zenith STOL CH 701, was on routine flight from Bareilly to Hindon airbase and was flown by two IAF pilots.

“The two IAF officers are Wing Commander-ranked officers and took off from Bareilly at about 11.05am on Thursday. While they were about to reach the Hindon airbase, the aircraft developed some technical snag and the two decided to go for an emergency landing on EPE. The landing was very difficult. But the two pilots landed the aircraft safely and did not suffer any injuries,” the NCC spokesperson, added.

“The aircraft developed some snag,” he added.

According to the officials of the Ghaziabad police, the emergency landing took place on the Dasna to Duhai interchange side near Sadarpur village at about 1.30pm. Soon, hundreds of locals and onlookers arrived at the spot and took selfies with the aircraft.

“The two pilots and the aircraft were taken away by the air force authorities and EPE was cleared. During the emergency landing, the aircraft did not hit any vehicle and no one was hurt. The front rotor and the front wheel of the aircraft suffered damage during the incident,” said Neeraj Kumar Jadaun, superintendent of police (rural).

The EPE is under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the 135km six-lane expressway was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2018. The EPE connects Kundli and Palwal through Baghpat, Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar and Faridabad while serving as a bypass for vehicles entering Delhi.

NHAI officials said the pilot, while landing on the six-lane expressway, moved the aircraft away from the high-speed moving vehicles.

“The aircraft landed on the left carriageway side of the EPE (from Dasna to Duhai interchange) towards the crash barrier and suffered some damage. The EPE has a movement of about 72,000 passenger car units (PCU) in the stretch between Dasna and Duhai in Ghaziabad (as per January 22 records). Amid such a high volume, the pilots did a splendid job and landed the aircraft safely next to the crash barrier,” said AK Jain, project director (NHAI).

Jain said there was a traffic hold-up on the EPE for about 10 to 12 minutes.

“They could have easily landed the plane in the middle of the expressway but probably they avoided the part due to speeding vehicles. The onlookers said the plane was swinging while coming down after developing a technical snag. The expressway is, anyway, suitable for landing of such planes in case there is need,” he said.

Sources in the IAF said that both pilots were safe and their efforts to draw the plane away from passing vehicles avoided a major incident. They said it was an NCC plane flown by two IAF pilots.

The officials said the aircraft was a Zenith STOL CH 701, which is a short take-off and landing aircraft with a maximum speed of about 135 kph.

“About 8 km short of Hindon, the microlight developed a technical problem. The aircraft safely landed on national highway. Both pilots are safe. Further investigation is on,” said spokesperson from the Ministry of Defence.