Friends in need: Indian engineers help Nepal reopen airport

  • Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: Mar 09, 2015 19:48 IST

Nepal's only international airport reopened for operations on Saturday night after it had to be shut down for over 80 hours following crash landing of a Turkish Airlines aircraft.

Twelve engineers from Air India who worked tirelessly for 51 hours were responsible for clearing the only runway at Tribhuban International Airport and reconnecting the Himalayan nation with the world.

"We have been involved in nearly a dozen such operations, but this one was very difficult," said S Ramaswamy, AGM, Air India, who headed the team that removed the crashed aircraft.

Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Kathmandu had skidded off the runway on landing on Wednesday morning. The plane stopped on grass but one of its wings blocked the runway.

All 238 passengers and crew escaped unhurt, but the airport had to be shut down indefinitely as Nepal didn't have the equipment to remove the aircraft.

"I got a call from Prime Minister Sushil Koirala seeking India's assistance and our team reached Kathmandu from Mumbai within 15-16 hours," said Indian ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae.

An Indian Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft carrying the Air India team and aircraft removal equipment landed in Kathmandu on Thursday. The aircraft was used as it could land and take off from small runways.

"If that aircraft wasn't available, it would have taken much longer for us to clear the runway," said Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, Director General of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

The Air India team along with nearly 1000 men from Nepal Army, Nepal Police and CAAN worked slowly to lift the aircraft's nose, dig out landing gear from earth and move it to a safe location on Saturday.

"It was a very technical task, but we were able to rescue the damaged aircraft without any further damage," said Ramaswamy.

Ambassador Rae termed the incident and the immediate help provided by India as a good demonstration of how both neighbouring countries can come to each other's assistance in times of need.

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