Bangalore, March 27 (IANS) A major mishap was averted late Thursday at the Bangalore airport when a Hyderabad-bound Kingfisher Airlines' ATR aircraft hit a stray dog on the runway and aborted take-off after its nose-landing gear collapsed.
In a belated statement, the airlines said all the 25 passengers onboard the 50-seater new ATR 72-500 aircraft were safe. They were evacuated soon after the flight (IT 2427) screeched to a halt on the runway.
"The aircraft, which joined the fleet in December 2007, hit a dog on the runway during its take-off roll causing the nose landing gear to collapse. All the passengers were evacuated by the crew," the airlines said.
The incident happened around 21:50 IST when the scheduled flight was speeding on the runway for a take-off.
According to flight commander captain Mmopi, a black dog crossed the runway whilst the aircraft was on its take-off roll. As the runway was dimly lit, the crew did not notice the dog till it was too late to take evasive action.
"The aircraft is disabled and is being jacked up for towing off the runway," the airlines said.
With the aircraft stranded on the single runway at the old HAL airport, flight operations of other airlines have been put on hold till the ATR is towed away.
"As the runway is blocked, we have suspended landing and take-off for the next two-three hours. The ATC (air traffic control) has diverted all in-coming flights to Chennai and other airports," an Airport Authority of India (AAI) official told IANS.
The director general of civil aviation (DGCA) has ordered an inquiry into the mishap in conjunction with the airlines and the city airport authorities.
Meanwhile, Kingfisher chairman and CEO Vijay Mallya lamented dog menace at Indian airports still persisted posing threat to flight safety.
"It is unfortunate that dog menace still persists at airports in India causing such incidents as on the Bangalore runway. As safety is paramount at Kingfisher, I am glad our experienced crew handled the emergency successfully," Mallya said in the statement.
Later, all the passengers were provided transport and hotel accommodation. They were also offered seats on any airlines' flight to Hyderabad Friday morning.
2 airhostesses hurt
Since the canine got entangled in the nosewheel, the pilot applied the brake, jamming the landing gear of the ATR aircraft (Flight No. IT 2427, registration VT KAO). Although there were no casualties, two airhostesses attached to Kingfisher suffered minor injuries. The injured, 21-year-old Pooja and Prajitha (26) were treated as outpatients at Manipal hospital and discharged. The new aircraft had been delivered to the Airline in December 2007.
The airport was closed for over three hours and several incoming flights were diverted to other destinations. Chaos reigned at the airport terminal with passengers clueless about the incident. The rescheduling will have a cascading effect till Friday morning.
The aircraft had completed its taxi-run and was on the roll for take-off when its nose wheel touched the dog and the landing gear collapsed. The nosewheel was damaged and the aircraft slid on its belly, according to airport sources. The impact of the accident was minimal since the aircraft was still gaining momentum for take-off.
The black dog
The ATR 72-500 was under the command of Captain Mmopi, with over 11,000 hours of flying experience. According to the commander, a black dog crossed the runway whilst the aircraft was on its take off roll. As the runway was dimly lit, the crew did not notice the animal till it was too late to take evasive action.
All the passengers had fastened their seat belts and the aircraft was about to take-off, when the incident happened. It was about 9.45 pm. Recalled one of the traumatised passengers, Divya: "We were gaining speed and were about to take off. Suddenly we heard a noise, and the aircraft bounced once or twice before coming to a halt. Even as the lights went off and smoke engulfed the cabin, we were all told to jump out through the emergency exit." Jumping down about 4.5 feet, some of the passengers sprained their ankles. Another passenger, Mohammed Ziauddin termed it "a miraculous escape." Had the aircraft taken off or a tyre had burst, the damage would have been extensive.
The passengers were immediately evacuated and brought to the terminal building. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)ís fire tenders were soon at the spot to put off any possible fire. Over 150 personnel attached to HAL, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Kingfisher Airlines were also at the spot till early Friday morning. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had ordered a quick clearing of the runway, since several international airlines were scheduled to land at the heavily congested airport right through the night. By 11.30 pm, the aircraft was lifted by its nose and towed off the runway.
Dr Vijay Mallya, Chairman and CEO of Kingfisher Airlines said: "I am happy that all guests on board our flight are safe. It is most unfortunate that the dog menace at airports in India still persists and that an incident occurred today in Bangalore. At Kingfisher Airlines, safety is paramount and I am glad that our well trained and experienced crew handled this emergency successfully. All guests travelling on this flight will be provided with Transport and Hotel Accommodation in Bangalore as required and offered seats on a Kingfisher Airlines flight of their choice to Hyderabad."
The diversion of the flights had the Karnataka police in a tizzy. They had a big reason to be tense: Two police officials, Shourie and Jitendranath, were bringing Salaluddin, the prime accused in the IISc terror attack case, to Bangalore with a body warrant. But the flight, which was to land at 10.40 p.m., was diverted to Chennai.
Kingfisher plane aborts take-off in Bangalore