The tail of an Air India aircraft carrying more than 100 passengers hit the runway while taking off, forcing it to make an emergency landing at a nearby airport.
The flight was en route to Saudi Arabia’s Dammam from Calicut city in southern India’s Kerala state when it was forced to make an emergency landing nearly 400km away in state capital Thiruvananthapuram’s international airport.
The aircraft’s tail reportedly suffered damage after striking against the runway, sparking fears of a hydraulic failure.
The flight had around 176 passengers and six crew members on board when it took off at 9.44am on Friday, reported Indian daily The Hindu.
After learning that the plane’s tail “touched the runway surface”, the pilot called for a precautionary landing, the report added, citing sources.
The flight was then directed to the international airport, where a temporary emergency was declared but withdrawn soon after the flight landed safely. No flight services were affected by the emergency, an airport spokesperson was quoted as saying to the daily.
Before landing in the capital city, the flight had to be taken over the Arabian Sea to release excess fuel that could have hampered the critical landing.
This caused the emergency landing’s time to be pushed from the initial estimate of 11.03am to 12.15pm.
The aircraft had the fuel to fly for another six and a half hours, but the body of the aircraft carried structural weight limitations for landing with full fuel capacity.
Officials at Air India chose the Thiruvananthapuram airport for the emergency landing as it had a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility.
A source aware of the incident said it was not immediately known what caused the tail to brush against the tarmac, the report added.
“Attempting for take-off before attaining the take-off speed at times led to such incidents. Only a detailed inquiry can ascertain the actual cause of the accident,” the source said.
The emergency landing was carried out safely, an airport spokesperson confirmed.
“The aircraft, a Boeing 738, was able to touch down safely at the airport and all the passengers were shifted to the transit lounge. The emergency was also withdrawn shortly after the landing and no flight services were affected by the emergency landing,” the spokesperson said.
This is the second such incident in Kerala in nearly a week as a similar emergency was declared at the Thiruvananthapuram airport on Sunday after an Air India express flight from Dubai reported a “nose wheel tyre decap”.
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