Mumbai: Belying hopes that the aviation sector would get its act together after the Mangalore air tragedy that claimed 158 lives on May 22, it continues to flirt with danger. In the latest in a series of near mishaps in the last couple of weeks at the busy Mumbai airport, an aircraft on Wednesday ran through the edge lights of the runway before taking off.
In an incident being considered ‘bizarre’ in aviation circles, the pilot of a Blue Dart plane missed the central line on the runway while rolling for take-off. Further, after damaging 15 edge lights on both sides of the runway, he took off without reporting the matter to the Mumbai airport authorities. It was only after the plane landed at Bangalore with a deflated tyre and metal pieces in the fuselage that airport officials there informed their Mumbai counterparts.
The flight — BZ 201 — from Mumbai to Bangalore took off like a drunken horse from the Mumbai airport, said an airport source. He said the aircraft, a Boeing 757-200, had positioned itself at the beginning of the main runway 27 of 09-27 before starting rolling for take-off. “The pilot mistook the edge lights of the runway on the left side for the central line and started rolling off. After he broke about 10 lights on the left, he realised that the plane was not aligned on the central line,” said the source.
In an attempt to align it, he drifted towards the right and broke five lights. The distance between two edge lights is 30 metres. “The pilot did damage till 900 metres before taking off,” he said. Interestingly, none of the flights that took off after the Blue Dart flight noticed the damage or reported it to air traffic control (ATC).
After the plane landed in Bangalore at 6.42am, the pilot conducted a routine inspection and noticed four deflated tyres and pieces of metal in the fuselage.
Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) closed the main runway for 50 minutes from 8.10am on Wednesday to conduct an inspection.
This delayed arrival and departure of flights by 45 minutes on an average.
Meanwhile, the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) has ordered an inquiry into the incident. “We have grounded the pilot and the matter is being investigated,” said a DGCA official.
According to a senior commander with Jet Airways, everything, including the mental condition of the pilot, the odd timing of the flight and stress levels, needs to be checked before passing the blame on to the pilot. “Such an incident can happen due to lack of concentration. We need to know if the the pilot was sleepy. Did he get proper rest? Was he stressed out? Did the airline strictly follow the flight duty time limits? Did he fly another flight before operating this one?” he said.