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Bird-hit plane aborts take-off

Patna, Aug. 23: A flock of birds flew into an IndiGo airline’s Airbus about to take off for Delhi this morning and damaged the plane’s engine before the captain slammed the emergency brakes.

The Airbus A320, carrying 89 passengers and six crew members, had started its run preceding the take-off when the birds, apparently attracted by the waste pile-up in the vicinity of the airport, hit the plane on the left around 8.05am. The pilot applied the emergency brakes, bringing the plane to a screeching halt seconds before take-off. Sources said the plane would have been running at a speed of about 40 nautical miles (74kmph) at the time.

The close shave has again put the glare on the city’s airport that is already under the scanner for obstacles on its landing approach path.

Flight 6E 385, whose scheduled departure time was 8.10am, was on way to Delhi and onward to Hyderabad, Bangalore and Visakhapatnam.

IndiGo sources at Patna airport confirmed that the birds had hit the left engine of the aircraft. “The left-hand side engine of the aircraft got damaged after it was hit by the birds. There were no casualities fortunately and all passengers were taken out of the aircraft immediately after the pilot took it to the parking bay. The aircraft has been grounded and it would operate only after the safety engineers of IndiGo give a fit-to-fly certificate,” said an airline source.

All passengers were accommodated on other flights of IndiGo from Patna, the source added.

Aviation expert Mirza Faizan said given the length of the Patna airport runway 25 (1,820 metres), the temperature conditions (25°C) and the weight of the aircraft, the plane would have covered about 600 metres when the birds hit it.

“Had it been raining at the time, which it was not, then the aircraft ran the risk of overshooting the runway as the friction coefficient reduces in case of a shower,” Faizan said.

Another aviation expert said: “If the aircraft speeds up beyond 80kmph, it becomes risky to slam the emergency brakes. In today’s case, stopping the aircraft was a perfect decision of the pilot.”

The aircraft was taking off along runway 25 (Patna zoo end), which has been on the radar of the DGCA for obstacles on the landing approach funnel. The state government has been given time till the end of the month to remove the obstacles, else the aviation watchdog can stop the operation of big planes at the airport. G.K. Chaukiyal, board member (operations), AAI, Delhi, was at Patna airport today to review the steps taken to remove the obstacles.

The close shave has also brought under the glare the lack of proper waste disposal facilities in and around the airport. According to sources, the incidents of bird-hit occur because of improper disposal of waste by meat and chicken shops in localities near the airport, improper disposal of waste food in functions held at the Patna Golf Club and unauthorised slums that have come up behind the IAS association building.

Patna airport has five bird chasers to keep out the winged creatures.

Patna divisional commissioner K.P. Ramaiah, who is also chairman of the Airport Environment Management Committee, had directed the Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) to ensure removal of such sources of waste which attract birds near airports and air fields last year.

The divisional commissioner was also supposed to get monthly reports from the PMC. However, Ramaiah said he had received only one report till date and most of the other directives were also not followed. He claimed that even the airport authority had not taken any steps on the matter till date.