Finally, a reason for AI to smile

Sep 07, 2011, 07:36 IST | Bipin Kumar Singh

Debt-ridden national carrier is the only airline in the country and Gulf sector to have equipment that played a big role in the recovery operation at Mumbai airport

The national carrier might be crippled with rising losses and internal political battles between employees and other problems including non-payment of salaries, but amid all the gloom, Air India employees have a reason to cheer.

Air India is the only airline in India and the Gulf sector and among 10 other airlines internationally to have the certified Air Transport Association (IATA) retrieval kit known as the Disabled Aircraft Retrieval Kit that is used in salvage operations.

The Turkish airlines flight that skidded off the runway and got
stuck in slush. It required almost 75 hours and 200 officials to
remove the plane that was stuck in 5-feet deep slush

Monday's salvage operation at Mumbai airport would not have been successful had it not been for AI's retrieval kit. Similarly, the recovery efforts at Kochi airport would also have failed if it weren't for Air India.

Explaining the importance of the kit, a top official from the engineering department of Air India, said, "We have a team of expert engineers and technicians who help in creating pathways with the help of pneumatic bags that lift the aircraft to 15 feet off the ground. The past 10 days have been hectic for us as we just completed the salvage operations at Mumbai and Kochi."

Further elaborating, the official said, "The recovery operations at Mumbai and Kochi were two very different things.

Firstly, the aircraft at Kochi airport was an Airbus 320 with a 45-tonne load whereas at Mumbai it was an Airbus 340 with about 150-tonnes of load. We were able to complete the retrieval process at Kochi in about 24 hours but it took more than 75 hours at Mumbai."

Other than Air India, American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, United Air and Qantas also have the approved retrieval kit.

Helping hand
On August 29, Gulf Air flight GF 270 with 143 passengers aboard skidded off the runway at Kochi airport following which a salvage operation was undertaken. On September 2, Turkish Airways flight TK-720 with 137 passengers on board skidded off Mumbai airport and salvage operations  were completed on September 4.

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