It was a close shave for around 150 passengers and crew on board a domestic Air India flight which had to be evacuated using emergency slide-chutes when it landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Monday with dense smoke coming out of it.
While Air India said there were a few sparks at the nose wheel but no fire, sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said there was a minor fire in the rear wheel which was doused quickly by ground staff. The aviation regulator also ordered a probe into the incident. Around six passengers sustained minor injuries during evacuation and were treated at the airport hospital.
Sources said Air India’s Khajuraho-Varanasi-Delhi flight 405 was around 80 miles (128km) from Delhi when Captain Tarang Gupta contacted air traffic control and sought permission for an emergency landing due to a hydraulic leak. The plane landed safely at 7.55pm.
“This resulted in a few sparks at the nose wheel. There was no fire. All 146 passengers were evacuated safely and taken to the terminal building. No passenger was injured,” said an AI spokesperson.
Sources said one of the rear tyres had burst during landing and the ground staff towing the aircraft informed the pilot about smoke from the undercarriage. The captain then decided to evacuate passengers on the runway itself. “Inspite of the degraded status of the aircraft — the left thrust was not reversible and the stabiliser was jammed — the pilots must be commended for doing such a fine job,” a senior AI official said.
“The plane’s main hydraulic system, also known as the green hydraulic system, was at a low level, possibly due to a leak so the alternate braking system which does not have full anti-skid capability had to be used. When you use the alternate breaking system, chances of overheating are very high,” said a pilot who did not wish to be named.
“All passengers were served dinner and taken care of,” the AI spokesperson said.