Passengers on board a London-Mumbai Jet Airways flight had a narrow escape after the aircraft flew just metres above the Heathrow airport boundary wall and vehicles on the other side when taking off.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has suspended the captain and co-pilot of the flight for maintaining an “unsafe altitude” and the probe has been transferred to the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) – a specialised unit that investigates serious incidents and accidents.
Sources said the incident took place on August 30. The pilots, sources said, did an intersection take-off at Heathrow – one where the aircraft, a wide-body Boeing 777 in this case, doesn’t use the full length of the runway.
“After the take-off, the aircraft maintained an unsafe altitude as it crossed the airport boundary wall,” said an official, who did not wish to be named.
The incident, sources said, came to light when locals complained about the low-flying aircraft to London Police, which brought it to the notice of Heathrow Air Traffic Control officials. The incident was then communicated to the DGCA.
DGCA sources said an aircraft maintaining an unsafe altitude after take-off can have serious consequences as in Aurangabad in 1993 when 84 passengers were killed and many injured when an Indian Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft crashed after hitting a truck after take-off. The landing gear of the plane had hit the truck carrying cotton bales.
“The subject incident did not have any damage to aircraft or property, nor injuries to crewmembers or guests on board. We are investigating the event that has been brought to our attention, as part of our active safety management system. At Jet Airways, safety of its guests, crew and assets is of paramount importance,” a Jet Airways spokesperson said.