Hubballi airport shut after SpiceJet plane skids

Bengaluru: The Hubballi airport in northern Karnataka remained shut Monday after an aircraft of budget carrier SpiceJet skidded off the runway while landing in bad weather, an official said.

The incident took place late Sunday. The plane had 81 people on board, including four crew members.

"The airport has been shut for the day as the aircraft has not been cleared from where it force-landed after skidding off the runway," airport director Shivanand Benhal told IANS on phone from Hubbali, about 400 km from here.

SpiceJet, which resumed flights twice a day to Hubballi from Bengaluru and Mumbai since March 1, operated its Monday service to Belagavi, some 80 km from Hubballi in the northern region of the state.

"We are operating our service from Bengalure and Mumbai to Belagavi so that passengers can reach Hubballi by road at the earliest," a SpiceJet spokesman told IANS.

The aircraft's tyres deflated on hitting the wet runway.

"Though visibility was poor due to rain, the pilot managed to land the aircraft but overshot the runway as the tyres burst and veered off the path," Benhal said.

Meanwhile, officials of the civil aviation regulator DGCA and SpiceJet, who rushed to Hubballi, began investigating the incident.

"We are doing our best to resume normal operations in a day or two by towing away the aircraft," Benhal said.

State-run Airport Auothority of India operates the Hubbali airport, where only SpiceJet has daily service to Bengaluru and Mumbai. Private or chartered planes and helicopters land and take-off with prior intimation.

Karnataka Information and Haj Minister Roshan Baig and three judges of the Karnataka High Court were among the passengers on the winged aircraft.

"The pilot (Sanjay Saxena) alerted us (passengers) that landing at the Hubballi airport would be delayed due to heavy rains. He, however, told us not to panic and assured us that he would land the aircraft safely as soon as the rain subsided," Baig told reporters.

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