Bangalore / New delhi: Just ahead of the peak summer travel season, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd may have to ground for over two months an aircraft that damaged its front landing gear after hitting a stray dog while taking off from Bangalore airport for Hyderabad on Thursday night.
The airport was closed for four hours, disrupting 10 flights, after the accident in which two of the 25 passengers on the plane received minor injuries.
“It is most unfortunate that the dog menace at airports in India still persists and that an incident occurred today in Bangalore,” said Vijay Mallya, chairman and chief executive of Kingfisher Airlines.
The 70-seat plane will remain grounded at Bangalore’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) airport till a team from Franco-Italian plane maker Avions de Transport Regional (ATR) assessed the damage.
The two expatriate pilots will also be grounded till an investigation is completed, said a senior official of the UB Group, which owns the airline.
India’s airports are struggling to cope with the rapid growth in civil aviation traffic. They have also faced passenger ire for unclean toilets, insufficient parking and crowded terminals.
In Bangalore, where a huge drain passes just outside the airport run by HAL, India’s state-owned military aircraft maker, there have been several instances of birds hitting aircraft.
A former Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official, who had been part of investigation teams for such accidents, said the damage would have been worse if the the widely used Airbus A320 or a larger jet would have been taking off at that time instead of a turboprop ATR aircraft. While an ATR’s speed is estimated at 180km per hour (kmph), the A320 would have been been running at 250kmph during take off.
“Probably, the pilot wouldn’t have had much option but to continue flying. Applying the breaks could have damaged the front wheel and busted the tires. That could have caused a lot of damage to the aircraft,” the official said, asking not to be named.
The investigation would initially be based on the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, which captures the messages between the pilot and air traffic controllers. The process usually takes several weeks.
A DGCA spokeswoman said the accident has been registered as an “incident” and a report would be submitted after the inquiry is completed.
Under the regulator DGCA’s definition, substantial damage to the aircraft, death of aperson or serious injury, which requires hospitalization for two or more days, qualifies as a case of accident.
Otherwise, it is considered as an incident.
In Bangalore, officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which runs the civil aviation enclave at the airport, blamed HAL for the mishap.
“The airport is run by HAL. They are responsible for keeping it safe,” said Narinder Kaushal, AAI’s director of the Bangalore airport.
An HAL spokesperson said that although efforts were made to keep the airport free of dogs and birds, the drain and the adjoining lake attracted scavengers. “Our duty is to keep the airport clean and secure. You can’t blame for what happens outside,” he said.
On Friday, in a reaction to the Kingfisher incident, Bangalore city officials caught six stray dogs including three near the runway, an official said.
“There was a battalion of dogs as soon as I landed,” said Premila Nazareth, an independent consultant, who arrived from Delhi on an Indigo Airlines flight at 3.30am, four hours behind schedule.