A SUKHOI-30 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force shot off the runway at the airport yesterday morning and remained stuck at the spot till early afternoon, sending civilian air traffic out of gear.
Airport officials said the Sukhoi was on a routine sortie when the incident happened. A problem with the nose undercarriage was stated to be the reason behind the incident at the Lohegaon airport, a facility used by both civilian passenger aircraft and the air force.
“During the landing the Sukhoi-30 skidded off the runway, around 9.15 am. It got stuck and remained so for almost an hour-and-half. Staff of the Indian Air Force and the airport took special efforts to tow the fighter away from the runway. As a result of all this, the runway remained engaged till 1 pm, and civil aircraft couldn’t operate. A total of 10 flights were affected because of the incident and had to be rescheduled. After
clearing the runway, from 1.30 pm flights started smoothly,” Airport Director P S R K Sudhakar said.
Some incoming flights were diverted to Mumbai during the towing operations to clear the runway of the Sukhoi.
“The first flight (Pune-Nagpur) departs from the airport at 5.55 am. Till the incident of the Sukhoi took place, a total of 10 flights had departed on time, without any disturbance. After the Sukhoi got stuck on the runway, 10 aircraft coming from other parts of the country to Pune were either delayed or diverted to Mumbai,” Sudhakar said.
Passengers remained stuck at the airport as there was no confirmation available on the new timings for the delayed flights.
“There were 10 flights delayed, rescheduled or diverted to Mumbai. Decisions are taken depending upon the availability of airport. After 1.30 pm, there are regular domestic flights also which should not be hampered,” Sudhakar said.
Authorities at the Mumbai airport said that four flights, of Jet, Spice, Kingfisher and Go, were diverted there, while the rest were rescheduled.
Tyre burst likely
While sources said the nose tyre of the Sukhoi burst during landing, Flight Lt T Ramesh Kumar, PRO, Lohegaon Air Force Station, only said there was a problem with the nose undercarriage.
“Due to a problem in the nose undercarriage of a SU-30 aircraft there was a runway blockage at 9.15 am at the Pune air base. The runway was cleared for all operations at one o’clock,” the officer said.
The 10 affected flights
>> 3 Delhi-Pune-Delhi flights, of Spice, Go & Kingfisher
>> Delhi-Pune-Hyderabad flight of Jet
>> Bangalore-Pune-Goa flight of Kingfisher
>> Bangalore-Pune-Banglore Flight of Jet
>> Bangalore-Pune-Delhi flight of Indigo
>> Hyderabad-Pune-Hyderabad of Air India
>> Chennai-Pune-Chennai flight of Indigo
>> Goa-Pune-Hyderabad flight of Air India
Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale (Retd) said Sukhois were very reliable and the airport incident was not a serious one. “Sukhois are very advanced and safe, and havea fuse system. If the tyre bursts during take off or landing, it will not directly affect things. The fuse will go off first and then the tyre. This is not a frequent incident,” he said. “The IAF will definitely analyse the problem and make sure it does not happen again. I don’t think this is very serious issue. This incident is grabbing everybody’s attention because of its impact on civil aviation.”