Updated: February 16, 2020 9:34:50 pm
In what could have been a grave turn of events, an Air India aircraft departing from Pune suffered a tail-strike while taking off Saturday, caused by the pilots pulling up the plane sooner than usual to prevent contact with a jeep and a person they saw on the runway of the airport, which is operated by the Indian Air Force.
The aircraft, which was at nearly full capacity, continued its flight and landed safely at Delhi, where it has been grounded for investigation. According to government sources, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has commenced a probe, as a part of which the flight’s crew has been de-rostered.
Air India’s Pune-Delhi flight AI-852, which was operated on Airbus A321 aircraft with 180 passengers and crew on board, was on its take-off roll and had reached speed of 120 knots (222.24 km/hour) when the crew observed a jeep and a person on the runway. To avoid conflict, the crew pulled the aircraft up at a speed lower than they usually would. The insufficient speed prevented the aircraft from taking off but a continued rotation of the plane resulted in a higher angle of attack that caused the tail of the plane to scrape the ground while getting airborne.
According to data sourced from flight tracking portal Flightradar24, when the 182-seater aircraft reached a speed of 161 knots, it was already 1,975 feet in the air. Usually, an aircraft with similar payload would have just began climbing at a speed of 161 knots.
Upon landing at Delhi, the damage was observed on fuselage skin and frame and the aircraft was withdrawn from service for investigation. “Air India has been advised to coordinate with Pune air traffic control to find out any markings on the runway and communications have been sent to IAF for preservation of ATC recordings for investigation,” a senior DGCA official told The Indian Express.
In a statement, Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said: “The A321 aircraft that was scheduled to operate AI825 to Srinagar was observed to have certain marks towards the empennage area. This aircraft had arrived from Pune on AI852. The aircraft has been withdrawn for the detailed investigation. The CVR (cockpit voice recorder) and SSFDR (solid state flight data recorder) readouts would be carried out and the findings shared appropriately”.
In October 2000, a Singapore Airlines airliner, which started to takeoff from the wrong runway at Taiwan’s Taipei Airport, collided with construction equipment on the closed runway during its takeoff roll, resulting in deaths of 84 people out of the 182 on board.
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