Plane carrying Rahul Gandhi loses altitude, lands safely

India's main opposition Congress party on Thursday demanded a probe into what it called "suspicious and faulty" performance of a chartered plane that was flying party leader Rahul Gandhi to southern India.

The party said in a statement and a complaint to the police that the plane shuddered, lost altitude quickly and tilted to the left in turbulence.

Party spokesman Randeep Surjewala told reporters that "the flight tilted on one side and took a nose dive. There was a lot of crankling sound and shuddering, although the weather outside was normal and sunny."

It landed safely in the southern town of Hubli on the third attempt with no injuries to Gandhi and other passengers.

Surjewala said, "This is a serious case of aviation mechanic failure. A serious accident was averted." The plane also was reported to be off radar for a while, he claimed.

He said the party has asked the police and civil aviation authorities to look into the possibility of a foul play.

The Indian Express newspaper said it was a Falcon 2000 plane owned by India's Religare Aviation Limited. The NewsX television channel said it was an 18-seater plane.

The Press Trust of India news agency reported that the state-run Directorate General of Civil Aviation will investigate and that state police registered a complaint.

Rahul Gandhi is the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

He was on a campaign visit to Karnataka state ahead of state legislature elections in May.