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Narrow escape for AI flight
- Mumbai-bound passengers grounded as plane’s windshield cracks

Bhubaneswar; Nov. 13: Passengers on board a Mumbai-bound Air India plane had a narrow escape on Saturday as the flight was cancelled at the last moment after the pilot detected a crack in the plane’s windshield in Bhubaneswar.

Immediately after the crack was spotted, passengers of the IC-169 Raipur-Bhubaneswar-Mumbai flight were asked to get off the 146-seater plane. The six-member crew of the plane helped passengers to alight from the aircraft. “I had occupied my seat in the plane around 3pm when there was an announcement that the aircraft was facing some technical problem. We were asked to get off the aircraft,” said Dr. Amitabh Sahu, who had boarded the plane in Bhubaneswar. He was supposed to take a connecting flight from Mumbai to Bahrain.

It was only around 5pm that a formal announcement about the flight’s cancellation was made and the passengers were told about the windshield crack. “I was making my way towards the aircraft from the departure lounge when I heard the (first) announcement. After a long wait we were told that the flight had been cancelled,” said Sushil Gupta, who was returning to Mumbai after a trip to Puri.

Though looking hassled, Gupta admitted that the cancellation of the flight had saved them from a possible disaster. Sources said that Air India had lodged the stranded passengers in a city hotel.

Refusing to give details about the incident, traffic superintendent of the Biju Patnaik airport S.K. Bhattacharya said : “It was a technical snag but all the passengers are safe.” Air India authorities also refused to comment about the cancellation and the technical snag.

Sources said the plane finally left for Mumbai in the evening without any passengers. Unlike Gupta, many passengers were livid about the late cancellation of the flight. Urvashi Mohapatra, who was to reach Pune this evening on an urgent assignment, said: “We had been waiting at the airport since 1pm but they told us about the cancellation four hours later. This left us stranded.”

An aviation expert said that apart from bird hits, malfunctioning of the internal heating system could cause windshields to crack. “However, in most cases cracks are detected on the ground.”

This, incidentally, is not the first incident of a flight being grounded or making an emergency landing at the Biju Patnaik airport. On August 28, a Delhi-bound Indigo flight had to make an emergency landing following a bird-hit.

On October 23, an Indian Air Force plane carrying vice-president Mohammad Hamid Ansari was halted on the runway as a private passenger flight had landed at the same time. Ansari’s flight was delayed by about five minutes.

On December 9 last year, the helicopter carrying President Pratibha Patil, her husband and Orissa governor M.C. Bhandare met with an accident after its rotator blade hit the rooftop of an abandoned building inside the airport. The dignitaries had a lucky escape.

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