It’s not uncommon for India’s aviation sector to make news for all the wrong reasons. However, what happened Friday on a Dubai-bound Air India Express flight pales before previous instances of crew negligence or mistreatment often complained about by passengers.
In the early hours of Friday, an Air India Express flight, with 136 passengers and crew members on-board, had a miraculous escape when the aircraft’s wheels hit a perimeter wall during take off at Tiruchirappalli airport in Tamil Nadu. While the accident caused massive damage and scratches to the aircraft’s underbelly, none of the crew members or pilots had any inkling about it.
Shockingly, the flight continued towards its destination to Dubai for four hours, until it was asked by Trichy airport officials to make an emergency landing. The flight was eventually diverted to Mumbai airport where it made a safe landing.
India Today reported Air Traffic Control (ATC) controllers got in touch with the two pilots of the flight immediately after the accident. However, the pilots informed them that their aircraft systems were operating normally and they will continue flying.
Eventually, the flight was asked to divert to Mumbai as a “precautionary measure.” Nobody was hurt in the incident and the aircraft landed in Mumbai at 5:35 am.
Following the incident, the pilots of the aircraft have been “derostered” pending investigation, Air India Express said in a statement.
“The pilot in command, Captain D Ganesh Babu, has flying experience on the B737 aircraft of 3,600 hours, including about 500 hours as commander. The First Officer, Captain Anurag, has an experience of about 3,000 hours on the B737,” the airline said.
Pictures of the damaged aircraft accessed by India Today, showed minor cracks in the aircraft’s underbelly. The snaps also showed a long tear spread down the centre of aircraft. The incident has highlighted the poor state of India’s air safety record.
In September, an aviation-safety audit conducted last year by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), showed India had slipped below its previous ranking of 66% to 57%. According to the rankings, India’s air safety oversight score is lower than that of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and even North Korea in the Asia-Pacific region, Economic Times reported.
Early this month, Business Today reported that 58 pilots of Air India were caught drunk in the last eight years, right before they had to fly from various airports in the country.
(With inputs from PTI)