Landing plane veers off runway but safe, airline didn't own up

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 10 Maret 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Around 140 passengers on an Indigo flight from Chandigarh had a narrow escape after landing at Mumbai airport on Saturday evening when the aircraft went off the runway, ran over a shoulder strip and went on towards an unpaved area. Airport officials said it was a serious incident and the fact that it wasn't promptly reported made it even more serious. Flights were delayed after the incident.

After veering off, the just-landed aircraft crawled back to the runway and proceeded towards the taxiway. An Indigo spokesman said a sudden gust of wind caused the incident.

Airport sources said the incident was not immediately reported to apron control or even Air Traffic Control (ATC) as required by protocol. It came to light almost eight minutes later during a routine inspection by an airport jeep.

At 6.42pm, a Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL) jeep found that five runway lights on the southern edge were broken. The officials in the jeep also saw tyre marks on the runway shoulder (a strip that flanks the runway). The tyre marks went up till the edge of the unpaved area beyond the shoulder.

A visual inspection of the aircraft that had landed a while earlier was carried out, said airport officials. The inspection revealed that Indigo flight 6E 433 from Chandigarh had landed at 6.35pm. Mud was found on the body of the plane. Sources said that when questions were asked about the mud, it was discovered that a wheel of the aircraft with mud on it had been changed after the plane landed. "On inspection, mud was found on the first wheel of the aircraft, an Airbus A-320. This confirmed the incident," said an airport official.

The official added that the airline's maintenance engineer, who had replaced the wheel, had not informed apron control. The flight, which was carrying 140 passengers, had apparently veered away from the runway, breaking edge lights and reaching the unpaved area towards the southern part.

The airport's main runway had to be closed for almost two hours to clear the area and repair the lights. Most arriving and departing flights were consequently delayed by 30 to 40 minutes. The incident has been reported to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and investigations are in progress.

Aviation experts said that the incident could have resulted in an accident had the unpaved area been slushy. An aircraft, after landing, has to keep itself within the 60-foot-wide runway. After the runway, there are edge lights, beyond which is six to seven feet of runway shoulder. Primary reports suggest that the pilot could not regulate the speed after landing and veered off the runway in an attempt to slow down, said sources.

An Indigo airline spokesperson said the aircraft witnessed a sudden gust of wind while landing and broke some runway lights in the process. "The aircraft experienced sudden gust of wind and is suspected to have damaged some lights. All 140 passengers and crew on board are safe. The DGCA and the safety department of IndiGo are investigating the incident," the spokesperson said.

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