Istanbul, May 7 () - An airplane carrying Turkey’s main opposition leader had recently requested to descend over Ankara due to bad weather, but the air traffic control tower refused the request by pointing a finger at the presidential palace below, according to daily Cumhuriyet.
“Aircraft fear in the palace” was the title of daily Cumhuriyet Ankara correspondent Çiğdem Toker’s column on May 6 explaining the episode.
Toker wrote that main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was returning to Ankara in a private plane after his election rallies in the central Anatolian provinces of Nevşehir and Kayseri on May 3 when the incident happened amid a brewing storm over the Turkish capital.
Several journalists covering the CHP’s campaign were also accompanying Kılıçdaroğlu.
“After we landed at [Ankara’s] Etimesgut airport, we heard from the captain pilot, who was briefing Kılıçdaroğlu, that the tower had not allowed a [safer] descent over the presidential palace despite his warning about the bad weather” she said.
“You are above the well-known place” Toker quoted the tower as telling the pilot, referring to the massive presidential palace whose construction by the order of President Tayyip Erdoğan had stirred debate last year.
According to a notice to airmen (NOTAM), the sky above Turkey’s presidential palace is a no-fly zone for civilian aircraft below 5,500 feet (1676 meters).
“Kılıçdaroğlu listened to the pilot without making any comment,” Toker added, arguing the “fear” of a terrorist attack could lead to “risky consequences” in such bad weather, even when the aircraft passenger is the leader of the country’s main opposition.
“Apparently, Kılıçdaroğlu was on his lucky day” she wrote.