Close shave for 136 people as craft’s belly grazes...
All 130 passengers and six crew members are said to be safe. The passengers were later shifted to another aircraft.
Aviation experts described the incident as “very dangerous”, saying that even an extra foot of impact to the plane could have led to a crash.
Experts say there could be two possible reasons for the accident — Either there wasn’t desired throttle, or the correct take-off weight of the aircraft was not communicated to the pilot. “Even a minor change in reported aircraft take-off weight makes a big difference,” said a source in the Airport Authority of India (AAI).
The flight took off at around 1:30 am from Trichy airport. Soon, airport authorities realized that the plane may have come in contact with the localizer antenna (a part of the airport communication device called instrument landing system (ILS)) and the perimeter wall. This means the aircraft took off only after covering the entire runway, when normally the plane is provided thrust soon after half the runway is covered.
Airline officials say when Air Traffic Control got in touch with the commanding pilot, he said the systems were operating normally. “It was decided to divert the aircraft to Mumbai as a precautionary measure,” said the airline. Inspection revealed severe damage to the craft’s belly, and green plastic mesh struck near the impact area.
Satellite data referenced from flight tracking website Flightradar24 shows the aircraft climbed perilously for 31 minutes after departure to a cruising altitude of around 36,000 feet and stayed there for three hours and sixteen minutes, before descending to Mumbai. It is still not clear yet whether the aircraft struck the ILS and the wall, or if the aircraft struck the ILS and its impact sent debris into the wall, damaging it.
An airline spokesperson said that the Pilot-in-command Captain D Ganesh Babu has flying experience on the B737 aircraft of 3,600 hours, including about 500 hours as Commander. First Officer Captain Anurag has an experience of about 3,000 hours on the B 737.
Both have been derostered pending a high-level investigation.