Friday, March 28, 2008

Dog-hit plane stuck on runway

Dog-hit plane stuck on runway
DH News Service,Bangalore:
Twenty-five passengers of a Hyderabad-bound Kingfisher airline flight had a miraculous escape after the landing gear of the turboprop ATR 72-500 aircraft collapsed seconds before take-off at the HAL Airport here on Thursday night. The aircrafts nosewheel had hit a dog that strayed into the runway area.

2 airhostesses hurt

Since the canine got entangled in the nosewheel, the pilot applied the brake, jamming the landing gear of the ATR aircraft (Flight No. IT 2427, registration VT KAO). Although there were no casualties, two airhostesses attached to Kingfisher suffered minor injuries. The injured, 21-year-old Pooja and Prajitha (26) were treated as outpatients at Manipal hospital and discharged. The new aircraft had been delivered to the Airline in December 2007.

The airport was closed for over three hours and several incoming flights were diverted to other destinations. Chaos reigned at the airport terminal with passengers clueless about the incident. The rescheduling will have a cascading effect till Friday morning.

The aircraft had completed its taxi-run and was on the roll for take-off when its nose wheel touched the dog and the landing gear collapsed. The nosewheel was damaged and the aircraft slid on its belly, according to airport sources. The impact of the accident was minimal since the aircraft was still gaining momentum for take-off.

The black dog

The ATR 72-500 was under the command of Captain Mmopi, with over 11,000 hours of flying experience. According to the commander, a black dog crossed the runway whilst the aircraft was on its take off roll. As the runway was dimly lit, the crew did not notice the animal till it was too late to take evasive action.

All the passengers had fastened their seat belts and the aircraft was about to take-off, when the incident happened. It was about 9.45 pm. Recalled one of the traumatised passengers, Divya: “We were gaining speed and were about to take off. Suddenly we heard a noise, and the aircraft bounced once or twice before coming to a halt. Even as the lights went off and smoke engulfed the cabin, we were all told to jump out through the emergency exit.” Jumping down about 4.5 feet, some of the passengers sprained their ankles. Another passenger, Mohammed Ziauddin termed it “a miraculous escape.” Had the aircraft taken off or a tyre had burst, the damage would have been extensive.

The passengers were immediately evacuated and brought to the terminal building. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)’s fire tenders were soon at the spot to put off any possible fire. Over 150 personnel attached to HAL, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Kingfisher Airlines were also at the spot till early Friday morning. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had ordered a quick clearing of the runway, since several international airlines were scheduled to land at the heavily congested airport right through the night. By 11.30 pm, the aircraft was lifted by its nose and towed off the runway.

Dr Vijay Mallya, Chairman and CEO of Kingfisher Airlines said: “I am happy that all guests on board our flight are safe. It is most unfortunate that the dog menace at airports in India still persists and that an incident occurred today in Bangalore. At Kingfisher Airlines, safety is paramount and I am glad that our well trained and experienced crew handled this emergency successfully. All guests travelling on this flight will be provided with Transport and Hotel Accommodation in Bangalore as required and offered seats on a Kingfisher Airlines flight of their choice to Hyderabad.”

The diversion of the flights had the Karnataka police in a tizzy. They had a big reason to be tense: Two police officials, Shourie and Jitendranath, were bringing Salaluddin, the prime accused in the IISc terror attack case, to Bangalore with a body warrant. But the flight, which was to land at 10.40 p.m., was diverted to Chennai.


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