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Plane wingtip scare

Siliguri/Calcutta, June 27: A Kingfisher Airlines Airbus A320 had a close shave at Bagdogra airport this afternoon when its right wingtip hit a grass-camouflaged air force bunker near the runway while taxiing for takeoff.

Airline officials said all 178 passengers and six crew members of the Bagdogra-Delhi IT 3334 were safe. “The aircraft suffered structural damage and the bunker wall cracked,” airport director K.K. Bhowmick said.

Airline officials claimed there was no chance of a tragedy. But a senior flight engineer in Calcutta said: “Had the aircraft gained speed by then, there would have been a chance of it catching fire.”

The incident happened around 3.30pm. “While executing a 180-degree turn to line-up for take-off, the right wingtip touched the wall of a grass-camouflaged bunker,” a Kingfisher spokesperson said. Airport officials said the air force uses such bunkers to park its fighter planes underground.

Aircraft movement was stalled at Bagdogra for more than an hour and Calcutta-bound SpiceJet and Kingfisher flights were delayed. A SpiceJet flight from Delhi hovered over the airport for nearly 40 minutes, unable to land.

The damaged aircraft was towed to the parking bay at 5.30pm. The passengers were taken to the lounge to wait for another Kingfisher aircraft to arrive from Delhi for them.

“The flight safety department of Kingfisher is investigating the matter,” the spokesperson said. An Airports Authority of India official said the fault appeared to be the pilot’s. “The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation will conduct an inquiry.”

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