An Air India Express 737 en route from the southern Indian city of Trichy to Dubai on Friday had to land in Mumbai three hours into its flight after Trichy Airport officials reported that the aircraft ‘might have’ hit an airport perimeter wall prior to takeoff. BBC News reported that the aircraft, operated as Air India Express flight IX 611 with a scheduled flight time of four hours and fifteen minutes, was carrying one hundred and thirty passengers and six crew members.
After being informed of the damage to the perimeter wall, authorities advised the flight deck and the plane was requested to divert to Mumbai so the aircraft could be inspected for damage. The Times of India reported that there was some damage to the belly of the aircraft but after some time on the ground it was able to resume operations. This was also confirmed by news agency NDTV who reported that upon landing at Mumbai “officials soon found that the plane’s body had tears, cracks, and dents that were potentially very dangerous. Broken parts of the plane’s antenna were found on the ground at the Trichy airport.”
Exact details of how the incident occurred were not immediately clear with conflicting reports saying the aircraft had hit the ‘safety wall’ during take-off and some reports saying it happened prior to take-off. Pictures published on the news site India Today showed the damaged wall and cited that the wheels of the aircraft had caused the damage. NDTV reported that the aircraft “nicked the boundary wall before it was up in the air.”
Air India released an official statement confirming the incident: “After flight IX 611 from Trichy to Dubai had taken off from Trichy at about 1:30 a.m. today, it was reported by local airport officials at Trichy that they have observed that the aircraft might have come in contact with the airport perimeter wall. The matter was conveyed to the pilot in command. The pilot in command reported that the aircraft systems were operating normally.”
The operating flight crew who each had over 3000 flying hours on Boeing 737 aircraft were stood down in Mumbai pending an investigation. Air India advised that they had referred the incident to the Indian civil aviation authority, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). “Air India has constituted a sub-committee and is looking into all safety-related issues within the organization, including subsidiaries,” said Union Minister Suresh Prabhu.
The incident is the latest in recent weeks involving an Indian carrier after 30 passengers needed to receive treatment after suffering nose and ear bleeds on a flight from Mumbai to Jaipur due to low pressure in the cabin. The Jet Airways aircraft was forced to return to Mumbai and initial investigations from the DGCA have revealed that the pilots failed to turn on the cabin pressurization system.
John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John is currently the course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.