Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, his wife Rabri Devi and the top brass of the Rashtriya Janata Dal had a close shave on Saturday morning after the Kingfisher flight carrying them was hit by a bird. The aircraft had to come back to IGIA shortly after taking off.
“The plane could have caught fire, but thanks to the pilot, we all landed safely,” Lalu told Hindustan Times. Other VIP passengers on board included RJD union ministers PC Gupta, JP Yadav and Akhilesh Prasad Singh.
The Delhi-Varanasi Kingfisher flight (IT 331) took off from IGIA at 9.32 a.m. and while the aircraft was still at cruising height, it suffered a bird hit. “The commander of the flight could have carried on because it is a short journey to Varanasi and there was not much damage to the aircraft. However, we have a strict safety policy and the commander decided to bring it back,” Kingfisher spokesman Prakash Mirpuri said.
The pilot informed the Air Traffic Controller in Delhi that he would have to return and all arrangements for landing in emergency condition were made. The aircraft had a safe and normal landing around 10 a.m.
There were 63 other passengers in the plane, the airline spokesman said. The VIPs were accommodated in an Air India that was leaving for Varanasi shortly. The other passengers were sent by another Kingfisher aircraft around 11.30 a.m.
“Bird hits can be very dangerous if the bird is sucked into the engine,” said a senior ATC. “The strong turbine force of the engine can suck a bird if it’s anywhere close to it. Birds also often hit aircraft windscreen and other parts. Though these are less dangerous, a bird hitting an aircraft cruising at a speed of 300-400 kmph can still damage the aircraft body to a great extent and cause imbalance,” he said.