The main runway at Mumbai airport has remained shut for close to 40 hours since 4.13am on Friday after a Turkish Airways flight misjudged a turn and skidded off the runway. Continuous rainfall made it difficult for the airport staff to tow away the plane, stuck in a soft muddy patch.
Chaos ensued at the airport as three flights were cancelled, six diverted to other airports, and several others delayed.
Rescue staff comprising engineers from Larsen and Toubro, Turkish Airlines, Air India and the airport operator scooped out approximately 100 truckloads of soil from beneath the plane’s belly to create a 20-feet temporary concrete path to tow away the plane.
However, the construction material laid down to create the path remained wet through the day on account of persistent rain. “Heavy rainfall since Friday evening has been posing a challenge,” said a Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson. Once the path is ready, the aircraft will be pulled back onto the main runway, after which it can be towed to a parking bay.
Earlier in the day, the cargo hold in the aircraft’s belly was emptied and the fuel from the aircraft was removed to make it lighter. An air balloon was also fixed to the aircraft bottom to help lift it from the slush.
Although the secondary runway was available for flight operations, an MIAL spokesperson revealed that the secondary runway was shut on four occasions on Saturday owing to fluctuating runway visibility, which delayed flights arriving and flying out of the city by at least an hour.
Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) officials questioned the pilots of the Turkish Airways flight, and are waiting to download data from the cockpit voice recorder (CVC) and flight data recorder for further investigation.