False fire alarm leads to emergency evacuation of AI flight at Mumbai

  • Soubhik Mitra, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 29, 2016 00:36 IST

A fire alarm that forced the crew of an Air India Hyderabad-Mumbai flight to conduct an emergency evacuation of passengers soon after touchdown at the city airport on Monday morning could have been an oversight.

An inspection of the Airbus A319 after the emergency off-loading of passengers through escape chutes found that there was nothing wrong with the aircraft.

Around 7.45 am officials from the air traffic control (ATC) tower told that crew that it had spotted smoke coming off the aircraft’s undercarriage soon after it landed, said the AI spokesperson. As a result fire tenders were called in and the emergency escape chutes were rolled out. Luckily, none of the passengers sliding of the inflated chutes got hurt.

More than two dozen AI passengers had reported unusual back pain and other complained about bruised elbows during a similar escape from an aircraft that suffered a tyre burst on touchdown on March 2.

“Since the Mumbai airfield is abuzz with construction activity there are chances that the ATC mistook the concrete dust as smoke. Our engineers did not find any glitch with the engines or the undercarriage,” said the spokesperson.

Airline officials added that the just over six-year-old aircraft was sent back on flying duty after a brief inspection at a parking bay.

Since the plane had stopped on one of most used high-speed runway exits, the airport main airstrip was not available for use causing some flight delays, said airport officials.

At 8.17 am, the Jet Airways official Twitter handle stated that all arrivals and departures were running late by up to 30 minutes owing closure of the main runway. Although the runway became operational by 10am, the backlog of flights had a cascading effect on schedules throughout the day. “Due to air traffic congestion at the Mumbai airport, all arrivals and departures were delayed by up to 30 minutes till 9 pm,” read the subsequent Twitter update from the airline.

Air safety experts pointed out that false emergency alarms have led to panic and hurt to fliers in the past. For instance, in August 2010, 25 passengers on board a Jet Airways flight had suffered injuries including four fractures while sliding off emergency chutes following a fire-induced evacuation, according to the aviation safety regulator’s probe.

The probe later found out that the crew must have mistaken anti-collision light lights for fire.

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