Air India’s Jeddah-bound Boeing 747 aircraft was grounded at the Chennai airport on Monday.

This was after the tow-bar of a trolley pierced the outer cowling of the engine, while the aircraft was being towed from a remote parking bay.

Airport Director H.S. Suresh said that around 8 a.m., the aircraft was towed from the parking bay 30 to the contact bay.

The tow tractor driver dragging the aircraft had failed to notice the trolley tow-bar kept in a 90 degree elevation near bay 31. The tow-bar hit the outer cowling of the first engine located on the left side of the aircraft and pierced it.

A senior Airports Authority of India (AAI) official said trolleys, belonging to a private ground handling agency, were not supposed to be left near the bay 31. Whenever trolleys were detached from a tractor, the drivers used to put the tow bar on the ground.

But, in this case the driver casually left the tow bar in a standing position, resulting in the accident. The trolleys were brought to attend to a Sri Lankan airways flight expected sometime later in the morning.

Lack of discipline

It is the lack of discipline among ground handling agencies and failure on the part of AAI to strictly monitor the movement of trolleys and other vehicles in the operational area that leads to accidents of this kind, according to the official.

The presence of too many ground handling agencies at the airport is also cited as reason for accidents resulting in serious damage to aircraft.

Fourth such incident

This is the fourth incident in the last three months in the airport in which the aircraft has been seriously damaged, the official pointed out. Four hundred passengers were set to fly in the grounded Air India flight, exclusively meant for the Haj pilgrimage. When contacted, Air India officials said a preliminary enquiry has been ordered into the accident.

The Director General of Civil Aviation will conduct a separate enquiry into the accident, airport sources said.

The national carrier had brought in another Boeing 747 aircraft from Mumbai to take the stranded passengers to Jeddah, the Air India sources added.

D. Sudhakara Reddy, National President, Air Passengers Association of India, said he received calls from some of the passengers of this flight.   He expressed shock that an important part of the aircraft engine was damaged due to the negligence on the part of the technical team towing the aircraft .  

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