A couple of weeks ago, Mumbai airport conducted its first ever security drill.
The mock disaster: An Airbus carrying 250 passengers made an emergency landing and caught fire. Ambulances and firefighters milled about, tripping each other up, but all in all, it was not a bad effort.
On Tuesday, though, as officials discussed the outcome and what could be learned from it, a sheepish official told Hindustan Times something rather unforeseen had gone wrong.
“For 15 minutes, there were no bird chasers on the tarmac,” said the official. “Many of them were caught watching the emergency drill.”
Even worse, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was on one of the three flights delayed as a flock of birds preened themselves on one of the busiest runways in the country.
The Air India flight carrying the minister to the city from Delhi landed safely, but took more time that usual to vacate the runway due to the massive bird activity.
Three other flights — a Spicejet from Ahmedabad, a Jet flight and a Jetlite flight from Delhi — had to abort their landings at the last minute and make a U-turn. They finally landed 20 minutes behind schedule.
Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) neither confirmed nor denied the incident.
“We do not want to comment on this matter,” said the spokesperson.
On Tuesday, the private consortia in charge of the revamp of the airport said a detailed report on the emergency drill would be submitted to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation by the end of the month.
“There are some things that need to be improved,” said airport director Philip Cash. “The volunteers who acted as injured passengers said the stretcher handlers were rough.”