Passengers onboard an Air India Express flight from Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu to Dubai escaped a major accident after the wheels of the plane hit the airport outer wall while taking off early on Friday, officials said.
The flight IX-611, with 130 passengers and six crew, took off at around 1.20 am and was then diverted to Mumbai where it made a safe emergency landing around 5.40 am.
Captain D Ganesh Babu was informed of the incident by the groud staff at Trichy. Captain Babu reported that the aircraft system were operating normally but diverted the flight to Mumbai as “a precautionary measure”, said an Air India official.
The Boeing B737-800 landed safely at Mumbai Airport.
All passengers were deboarded and an alternative flight was arranged to take them to Dubai with a fresh set of crew.
Air India has derostered both Captain Babu, with flying experience of 3,600 hours on Boeing 737 including 500 hours as a commander, and co-pilot and first officer Captain Anurag, who has flying experience of around 3,000 hours, pending investigation.
While the extent of damage to the Boeing’s wheels is not known, a portion of the nearly five foot compound wall at the Tiruchirappalli Airport was damaged, according to an airport official.
The airport authorities have started a probe into the freak accident while technicians in Mumbai are examining the damaged aircraft.
Tamil Nadu Tourism Minister N. Natarajan visited the Trichy airport and inspected the damage.
Commenting on the incident, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said he had recently ordered putting in place a third-party professional organisation to look into various safety aspects at Air India.
“In order to have continuous attention towards air safety, I have also ordered concerned officials to put in place a regular ‘safety compliance report’ of all airlines. Safety of passengers is of paramount importance for us,” the Minister said.
Prabhu added that aviation “growth can’t be at the expense of safety”.