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Five go plane spotting,avert disaster in city

He was in Delhi for his summer break when four friends from his school,Sardar Patel Vidyalaya,came visiting on Saturday evening.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: July 23, 2011 1:51:05 am

He was in Delhi for his summer break when four friends from his school,Sardar Patel Vidyalaya,came visiting on Saturday evening. The 20-year-olds were catching up on gossip around 2 am when they spotted a plane overhead.

They looked very closely,checking if they could make out anything more than the Air India insignia. And then they saw the plane emitting sparks, the metal plate of the engine glowing red.

Air India’s AI-101,bound for New York,had taken off from the Indira Gandhi International Airport with 339 passengers and 16 crew members on board,at 1.45 am on Sunday. Soon,the pilot began experiencing difficulty in flying the plane,something he thought had been caused by a bird-hit. Nobody knew that the engine was on fire,that delay could have led to a disaster.

From his Malviya Nagar house rooftop, Kartik Bhandari,an undergraduate student at the University of Nottingham in UK,noticed something amiss. He and his four friends from school — Himanshu Soni,Manan Soni,Moulik Geelani and Jaideep Desai — decided to call the police control room.

It was their presence of mind that saved the lives of the plane and its passengers .

“We were catching up and playing,when we saw the Air India plane on fire. The right engine was emitting sparks,and something like a metal plate was glowing red. At first,we just couldn’t believe our eyes. We were not sure what to do,so we decided to make a PCR call and inform the police,” Kartik told Newsline.

The PCR immediately alerted the airport control room and the authorities concerned. While the airport machinery was already put on local stand-by for the flight to land at Delhi Airport, the PCR call resulted in full emergency being declared.

The flight landed around 3 am,all on board safe.

“A call was received by the Police Control Room from a location in Malviya Nagar. The operator then alerted the airport control and airport police. The entire civil aviation machinery was put to work on it and the aircraft landed under full emergency conditions,” Special Commissioner of Police (Operations) Deepak Mishra told Newsline.

An Air India official said: “We suspect that the technical difficulty may have been caused due to a bird hit. The flight took off at 2 am on Sunday,and returned around 3 am,after the pilot reported technical difficulty in one of the engines. The flight time was 15 hours,and there were 339 passengers on board. We did not want to take any risk,even if the problem was a minor one.”

Another aircraft was made available for the passengers to fly to New York.

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