The pilot of the Coimbatore-bound flight realised the wheels were not functioning 30 minutes before landing; since Coimbatore airport didn’t have emergency systems, the plane turned back and landed safely
Passengers on an Air India flight were shocked to learn that they were back in the city from where they had boarded the flight. The aircraft had to return to Mumbai airport after its pilot found out, 30 minutes before the scheduled landing at the destination, that the plane’s wheels were not functioning.
The aircraft managed to land safely at Mumbai around 12.30 pm. Passengers were shifted to another Air India flight which took off an hour later. File pic for representation
The incident occurred on October 15 in Air India flight 657, which took off at the scheduled departure time of 10 am and was supposed to reach Coimbatore at 11.50 am. Around 11.20 am, the pilot tried testing the landing equipment, and to his shock, found that the wheels weren’t unfolding and coming out.
He immediately informed the Air Traffic Control (ATC). Full emergency was declared for the flight, but it couldn’t land at Coimbatore, since the airport didn’t have the necessary systems to deal with a full emergency.
“Chennai airport was one of the options for the aircraft to land, but due to congestion, Chennai had to be dropped and Mumbai airport was alerted for full emergency,” said a crew member on the flight.
Ground staff at the airport attributed the incident to hydraulic failure. When full emergency is declared at an airport, fire brigades, ambulances, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), and airport as well as airline staff ready themselves for the landing of the aircraft.
In case of such an emergency, a plane has to either make a landing in water, on an open field, or at an available airport equipped for full emergency.
Officials braced for the worse, since in case of malfunctioning wheels, the plane would land on its belly and friction could have caused a fire. An official present at the spot explained, “The plane landed safely and was parked at bay 76. It could’ve caught fire as its wheel weren’t opening out.
It couldn’t land in Chennai because of traffic congestion. It came to Mumbai after its scheduled arrival time in Coimbatore.” The wheels did, however, work while landing in Mumbai and no untoward incident occurred. However, all 186 passengers found themselves back to square one.
Air india says
The official spokesperson of Air India, confirming the incident, told mid-day, “The aircraft landed safely at around 12.30 pm after which the passengers were shifted to Air India’s additional aircraft, which took off within an hour.” However, eight passengers opted out of the flight.