Little over a year after Air India’s flight AI 263 blew a tyre while landing at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Male, the same flight had a flat tyre minutes before the scheduled take off from Chennai.
While the jinxed flight was carrying 111 passengers on May 13, 2012 in Male, only 85 were on board during the Monday early morning incident in Chennai.
Tyre blowouts have led to plane crashes across the world and there have been at least 12 incidents in the past 3 years across the country.
According to airport sources, the flight that operates on the Chennai-Bangalore-Thiruvananthapuram-Male route had loaded all the passengers, shut doors by 6.45 am and was ready to take off by 7.05 am. “The plane had reached the taxi track and it was moving towards the runway when one of the tyres on the rear wheel got punctured. The pilot immediately stopped the plane and sent an SOS to Air Traffic Control that they were immobile,” said the source.
Officials at the ATC said that the plane had been moving slowly and hence passengers wouldn’t have felt anything more than a mild bump.
“If the tyre had burst when the plane had reached the runway and was taking off, it might have been dangerous,” he said.
All flights that were lining up to take off were asked to wait as an aircraft tow-tug was sent out to bring the plane back to a parking bay. By 7.25 am, an electric tractor reached the plane and towed it to the secondary track so that other departures could continue. Once it was brought back to the bay, it was ascertained that the rear fourth tyre had ruptured. “The passengers were offloaded and a secondary flight that arrived from Mumbai left with them at 10.30 am,” said an Air India spokesperson. As many as 58 passengers in Bangalore and 25 passengers in Thiruvananthapuram were accommodated on other flights, he added.
A team of officials are assessing the amount of damage that has happened to the plane. AI sources have said that it is very minor and that the plane will be airworthy very soon.
Air India has had a bad record with planes blowing flats in the past 2 years. Besides AI 263 blowing tyres in Chennai and Male, its Goa-Chennai flight was held up by a puncture on the Goa tarmac twice.