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Fiery start to no-frills airline

Hyderabad, Sept. 24: India’s first no-frills airline had its baptism by fire today in Andhra Pradesh.

Air Deccan’s inaugural flight from Hyderabad to Vijayawada carrying political high-fliers was stopped in its tracks by a fire in the left propeller minutes before takeoff.

Civil aviation minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy and BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu were among the politicians on the 48-seater plane.

Rudy noticed the smoke when the aircraft was turning on the runway before the run for takeoff. He shouted to the crew to stop the flight.

Witnesses said Rudy wanted to jump out and advised others to follow him but was dissuaded by the crew of the ATR-42, a 10-year-old French aircraft. The 40 passengers were taken off the aircraft through the emergency exit and the fire was put out.

“Thank god, we noticed it (the fire) while on the tarmac itself, or else you (reporters) would be writing our obits and politicians issuing condolences,” Naidu said.

Drawing inspiration from Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, who has given established competitors a run for their money by offering no-frills service at low rates, Air Deccan has priced its flights a great deal lower than Indian Airlines and Jet Airways and only a shade above AC first class train travel. It charges Rs 1,875 compared to Rs 3,020 on Jet and an AC first class train fare of Rs 1,400 between Bangalore and Mangalore.

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