An Air India flight carrying more than 100 passengers from Mumbai was forced to make an emergency landing at Bhopal, after the aircraft encountered a bird strike moments before touchdown.
According to airline sources, the bird may have been sucked into one of the plane’s engine, which shut it down.
An AI spokesperson confirmed the incident. “A bird strike is suspected to have caused the emergency landing. All passengers are safe,” said the spokesperson.
Passengers heading to Mumbai, who were scheduled to come back on the same aircraft, were held up for 30 minutes owing to the incident. The return flight scheduled to take off at 8.15am, took off from the Raja Bhoj airport at 8.30am, said airport officials. AI engineers at the Bhopal airport were unable to ascertain the extent of damage at the time of going to press.
Data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) showed that most bird hits are recorded during take-offs and landings. While 38% bird strikes recorded over the past five years took place during the final approach stage, 22% bird hits were witnessed during take-off, the data stated.
“This is what makes bird hits a big safety concern,” said a senior DGCA official, citing the data trend. The official added take-offs and touchdowns are the two most crucial stages of a flight.
Cases of flight disruptions owing to bird hits and presence of other animals straying on the tarmac almost doubled between 2010 and 2014. From 378 incidents recorded in 2010, the cases rose to 719 until 2014. Until March last year, 97 cases were witnessed.
Air safety experts said bird strike not just puts fliers’ safety at risk, but also bleeds the airline industry. According to the DGCA data, losses caused by such disruptions rose from Rs7.5 crore in 2010 to more than Rs25 crore in 2014.