Common palm civet suspected to have got sucked in

A high-level team of investigators from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Air India have begun an inquiry into the incident which forced an Air India (AI) aircraft to come back for an emergency landing soon after take-off from the Karipur airport on Saturday night.

Air India flight AI 997, which took off from Karipur for Sharjah with 173 passengers on board, had developed an engine failure within minutes after take-off. Airport officials said they saw sparks from the right engine as soon as the flight was airborne.

Sources at the airport said that a cat-like animal had hit the aircraft’s engine, crippling the plane seriously, during the take-off.

Most of the engine blades were found damaged on inspection on Monday. Efforts were on to repair the aircraft by Air India engineers even as the DGCA team continued its investigation on Monday.

Zubair Medammal, a zoology teacher from Calicut University, who examined the body parts of the animal caught in the aircraft engine, said that it was a common palm civet. He said the fur and the skin collected from the engine and the runway at Karipur indicated that it was a palm civet. However, he said the identity of the animal species could be confirmed only after scientific examination.

First time

Airport officials said that though common palm civets, a nocturnal species, are found in these parts, they had never posed any threat to flights before.

Although bird-hit cases were reported a few times before, it was the first time that a civet got sucked in by the high-speed engine of an aircraft at Karipur.

There have been instances when flights were made to hold in the sky owing to bird movements.

It was in April last when a Dubai-bound flight of Air India made an emergency landing at Karipur after it was hit by a bird while taking off from there. Then only two engine blades were damaged.

Bird hits

Although bird hits are not frequent at Karipur, Calicut International Airport is one of the vulnerable airports in the country.

The Air India security wing regularly fires at birds at Karipur as part of its duty to minimise the bird threat.

The airport has bird-chasers working on contract and they ensure that bird flocking does not take place during flight movements.

They use LPG-operated zone guns and bird-chasing pistols that fire small pellets at the birds. Birds are scared away with the sound and fire from the pistols, which do not hurt or kill the birds.

An increase in the dumping of waste in the neighbourhood of the airport has led to a considerable rise in the presence of birds, particularly crows and kites.

A scavenger kite, according to aviation engineers, can cause major damage to the aircraft, and can even imperil the lives of people, if sucked in by the engine of the flight.

  • Emergency landing took place on Saturday

  • Most engine blades found damaged


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