Trouble in the Air: Air India”s Brush with Disasters

Posted on June 2, 2010 in YKA Editorials

Sango Bidani:

Yesterday an Air India Express aeroplane hit an air pocket while flying from Dubai to Pune and descended very quickly downwards 5000 to 7000 ft. At the time when the incident took place, the pilot was in the toilet but the co pilot was in the cockpit. Apparently he could not regain control of the flight in the auto flight mode. The incident could have been even more dangerous if the pilot had not returned back into the cockpit as the flight had already descended 7000ft from 37, 000 ft to 30,000ft within two minutes and any further delay could have proved costly. This incident comes close on the heels of the horrible Mangalore incident where 158 off the 166 people onboard died and another incident 10 hrs after the ghastly air crash took place, where the plane did not get the proper engineering clearance to take off but still took off after clearance from a private airline’s engineer. Surely these incidents are shocking but it’s not for the first time that these kind of problems have been noticed in an Air India’s long history as a national carrier especially in the last two yrs where there have been way too many close shaves.

Two Air India planes made an emergency landing on the Delhi Airport on one day itself, i.e. 9th of April 2007. In the first case the plane was carrying 183 passengers on board and was coming back from Shanghai via Bangkok when it had to make an emergency landing as the front locking gear system malfunctioned and to complete the embarrassment when the plane was being taxied off the main runway the plane’s nose collapsed making it even more difficult for the plane to be removed from the runway. Then on the same day, another Air India plane which was heading for Dubai made an emergency landing though the cause for the emergency landing could not be identified.

These two incidents occurred after a series of planes had to make emergency landings on various airports due to hydraulic failure in Airbus A310 and hydraulic leakage in Airbus A320 which are both owned by Air India. Apart from this there have been many incidents of tyre burst being reported on Air India planes not to say that other planes do not have it but Air India has had many of these in the past 3 to 4 yrs at least. For example, on 2nd April 2006, an Air India plane on its way to Frankfurt via Los Angeles had to make an emergency landing on the Mumbai International Airport after there was tyre burst while taking off from Delhi, though this was reported by airport sources although the airline said it was a precautionary landing.

Hindustan Times, 3rd April 2006.

Another incident where tyre bursting was reported was on the Chennai bound Air India flight which took from Singapore. Soon after the take off rubber pieces were found on the runway in Singapore. This incident took place on 22nd August 2009 while 141 passengers were onboard.2 These are just two incidents out of many similar incidents that have taken place. Apart from this on 4th September 2009, Air India flight 829, a Boeing 747-437 on the Mumbai Riyadh route caught fire at Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport. The fire started in number one engine while the aircraft was taxing to Runway 27 for take off. An emergency evacuation was carried out with no injuries to the 228 people on board.3 Apart from these close shaves the company has been incurring huge losses and is unable to maintain its air service quality as a result.

Surely all is not too well with Air India, from all angles, be it aircraft management, maintenance or financial problems that they are facing. So I think it is time we let Air India have some breathing space so that it can work to solve all these problems and so that they can also start earning profits. Why do you think the airline is incurring losses? Because, people are not satisfied with the kind of service that Air India provides especially for long distance journeys although I must also point out that there are many people who still continue to fly in Air India because of their loyalty to the airline. So now when I say that please do not use Air India till it recovers from these problems, I mean to say that let the airline solve its problems and in the meanwhile if the company incurs losses then it would be for then own good as after they improve their services they will start receiving more passengers on board for long distance journeys and then the airline can truly call itself ‘Maharaja’. And remember people’s lives are more precious than company incurring losses.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz. With his interests in socio-political issues, he is more than willing to change the ‘system‘. He sees himself as an ethical journalist in the years to come.