A major tragedy was averted at the Indira Gandhi International Airport when an airline passenger coach collided with a fuel tanker on Saturday.
The windshields of both the vehicles were damaged in the accident but no one was injured.
Sources at the airport said the fuel tanker, belonging to an Oil PSU, was filled with aviation turbine fuel (ATF) when it hit the Kingfisher Airlines passenger coach.
Though the passengers inside the coach and the drivers were not injured, the result could have been disastrous if the ATF had caught fire. The incident happened right outside the domestic departure terminal 1A, which could have been destroyed, sources said.
The incident occurred when the passenger coach driver was trying to park the vehicle in front of terminal 1A’s boarding gate.
Both Kingfisher Airlines and airport operator Delhi International Airport (P) Ltd. (DIAL) confirmed the incident.
“If the tanker was hit by the coach on the side or rear, both the vehicles would have blown up. There would have been far more casualties, as the vehicles were next to a terminal,” said an airport source.
ATF is highly inflammable and burns at 800° to 1,500°F, which is hot enough to melt structural steel.
Experts say the twin towers of World Trade Centre did not collapse due to the impact of terrorist attack by aircraft in 2001 but because the aviation fuel from the aircraft melted down the steel framework.
“There was no space near the boarding gate, as coaches of other airlines were lined up there. The driver overtook a vehicle to park at the next slot when the fuel tanker was coming from the opposite direction,” said an eyewitness who did not want to be named.
The damage was limited, as the brakes were applied just in time, sources said. The road takes a curve after the boarding area and was the reason why the drivers couldn’t see the other vehicle till they came close.
“There is construction work going on near the terminal and that is why the road layout changes almost daily. The road markings are poor and that is why vehicles bump into each other regularly,” an airline official said.
The windshields of both vehicles were damaged along with front bumpers, indicators and mirrors.
Sources said action will be taken against the drivers for negligence.
“There is a severe lack of space and infrastructure at the airside due to the constant renovation work. There is no space to manoeuvre both aircraft and vehicles, you don’t know when another vehicle is going to come and hit you,” an airline official said.
DIAL has undertaken many initiatives to enhance safety on the airside. This is also to offset the huge number of vehicles operating on the airside.
Despite the regular occurrence of such incidents at the airport, DIAL claimed it is monitoring traffic strictly inside the airport.
“All vehicles are fitted with speed governors restricting the speed to maximum 15 kmph in Apron Area and 30 kmph at peripheral roads,” a DIAL spokesman said.
“We are also intensifying surveillance of vehicular movement through 30 Airside Monitoring Inspectors,” he said. “Drivers also have to undergo a mandatory training course that we undertake,” he added.