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Taxiing jet scrapes aerobridge
- Turkmenistan plane’s wing brushes past danger at Amritsar, all passengers safe

Chandigarh, Sept. 10: A Turkmenistan Airways jet with 160 passengers and six crew members had a close shave today when its right wing grazed an aerobridge at Amritsar airport.

The incident occurred while the Boeing 757, headed for Turkmenistan’s capital Ashqabad, was taxiing for takeoff, airport officials said. The aerobridge was not kept at a distance safe enough for the plane to turn smoothly.

After the hit, passengers were asked to disembark and taken to the terminal. They were later shifted to a local hotel.

“No person was injured. There is some damage to the wing but it has been repaired. We are waiting for engineers, who are expected to give the clearance later tonight. After the aircraft’s airworthiness is certified, it will be cleared for takeoff,” airport director Arun Talwar said.

Some blamed the expansion work at Raja Sansi Airport for the brush with danger. They claimed airport authorities were too preoccupied with the makeover job to think of basic safety measures.

The plane being repaired at the airport. (PTI)

The fact that the aerobridge was not turned away from the plane long after its doors had shut showed that the most fundamental of checks had not been carried out.

This is not the first time Amritsar airport is in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. On December 24, 1999, the Indian Airlines flight hijacked on its way to Delhi from Kathmandu made a forced landing at the airport to tank up but was refused fuel. The IC814, with 174 passengers and 15 crew members, then flew to Lahore, with its tank almost empty. It was ultimately taken to Kandahar.

Talwar said Raja Sansi is among the fastest-growing airports in the country. It beat Goa and Ahmedabad, the other booming aviation hubs, in passenger growth last year.

The terminal building is being renovated and expanded from its earlier covered area of 14,500 square metres to over 41,000 square metres.

The building, which is equipped to handle 500 passengers each day, will be able to cater to 1,200 fliers daily by March next year.

“The airport is growing at such a fast pace that the projected figures (for the number of travellers) have already been surpassed. The new plans are in line with requirements that are likely to arise till 2015,” Talwar said.

In 1997-98, the airport handled only 22,190 passengers. That figure went up to 178,000 in 2002-03. The number increased more than three fold to 596,228 in 2006-07.

The runway is being extended from its present length of 10,790 feet to 12,000 feet. A few months from now, the airport will have nine parking bays compared to three at present.

The Punjab government has provided more than 44 acres to facilitate the expansion.

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