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Stricken jet slows down airport

Mumbai, Oct. 11: Flights at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport were delayed for the second consecutive day as a jet which got stuck in the mud on Sunday was not towed away even 36 hours after landing.

Passengers had a tough time with several domestic flights getting delayed by nearly an hour.

The Air Sahara Boeing 737 from Calcutta to Mumbai had overshot the landing threshold of the main runway and halted on the soft ground some 200 metres away.

For most part of yesterday, domestic flight arrivals and departures were delayed. Some flights were re-routed, adding to the inconvenience of passengers.

Today, Indian Airlines reported delays ranging from 30 minutes to an hour on more than half of its departures till 3 pm.

“Till this afternoon, we had 25 departures. Sixteen of these were delayed. The main runway was reopened today for some time, but it may have to be closed at sundown for visibility-related reasons,” an airline spokesperson said.

Air Deccan, too, said there were delays up to one hour for 18 daily flights out of Mumbai.

“The situation has been a little better than yesterday according to our operations team, but flights were delayed by an average of one hour on Tuesday,” said spokesperson Vijaya Menon from Air Deccan’s Bangalore headquarters.

Air Sahara said it is not the jet that is causing the problem. According to airline spokesperson Neeta Raina, “some problem with the instrument landing system (ILS) at the Mumbai Air Traffic Control” was to blame.

The instrument landing system helps airport staff to navigate a plane while it is landing.

Raina added that the “flights have been delayed by 10 to 15 minutes” only and “the Boeing is not blocking the runway, but is at a safe distance”.

She said from New Delhi that “the necessary equipment” to tow the jet away had reached the airport and “hopefully” the job will be done by this evening.

Officials at the Airports Authority of India, however, denied that the delays were linked to the instrument landing system.

They said the process of towing away a huge jet was cumbersome and warned that the airport would not func-tion normally till tomorrow morning.

“It (the towing away) involves creating a make-shift road on the soft ground with the help of wooden railway sleepers and metallic sheets. With the help of inflated airbags, the plane would be moved on to the concrete runway,” a senior airport official said.

Airport sources, however, said the instrument landing system had been “unserviceable” after the plane overshot the runway.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is probing how the jet shot past the runway. A team has begun questioning the two Air Sahara pilots.

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