Airline hushes up pilot fault at Muscat airport
Two days before the crash, an Air India Airbus 320 almost overran the runway at Muscat International airport due to a reject take-off.
Fortunately, the runway at Muscat is very long and a major disaster was averted.
But that wasn't all.
Most passengers were probably unaware that the commander of the aircraft had committed an equally dangerous — if not worse — error just before this. Without waiting for clearance from ground staff, the captain tried to move for take-off, damaging some critical parts of the plane.
"The pilot attempted to taxi the plane in a hurry without getting clearance from ground personnel and dragged the ground power unit, which was still attached to the aircraft. The nose gear door was damaged but in typical AI fashion, the matter was hushed up and the captain allowed to depart," sources told HT.
"Any professionally-run airline would have substituted the captain with another even if it meant delaying the flight, as a captain who'd just been in an incident would obviously not be in a perfect state of mind to operate," the sources said.
The sources also said the subsequent rejected take-off was directly linked to this error. The tyres of the aircraft burst when the pilot aborted take-off due to high exhaust gas temperature (EGT).
The plane was grounded and a team of AI engineers and technicians rushed to Muscat to repair the aircraft. The runway at the airport was blocked for a while.
"Take-off was rejected/aborted by the commander as a precaution due to indication of high EGT on one engine. Deflation of tyres is a normal feature of aborted take-offs. A team of technical personnel had to be sent from India for repairs of the wheel and brake assembly. The aircraft has already been repaired and put back into service," AI told HT via email.
However, the sources said, the captain need not have rejected take-off due to excess EGT at the high speed the aircraft was at, since the matter could have been sorted out in the air.