A nightmarish afternoon at Delhi airport

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END OF A NIGHTMARE: Passengers of the ill-fated Air Mauritius flight arriving at New Delhi’s Le Meridien Hotel on Thursday evening.
END OF A NIGHTMARE: Passengers of the ill-fated Air Mauritius flight arriving at New Delhi’s Le Meridien Hotel on Thursday evening.

Staff Reporter

Air Mauritius plane with 241 passengers aboard aborts take-off after suspected bird-hit

NEW DELHI: Saurabh Virmani is unlikely to ever forget his maiden flight experience. Little did this first-time air traveller realise that his trip to Mauritius would end up this way.

The HDFC Bank executive was among 241 passengers aboard an Air Mauritius flight -- MK 745 -- that aborted take-off after a suspected bird-hit at Indira Gandhi International Airport here at around 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.

As the brakes were applied suddenly, the resultant friction led to a minor fire in the undercarriage of the aircraft engine.

Immediately airport fire and rescue teams rushed to the spot and the blaze was put out at 2-15 p.m. A full emergency was declared as the passengers and 11 crew were evacuated safely through the chute and taken to the terminal building.

“This was the first time I was going by air and it was such a nightmarish experience. My wife does not want me to go now. She has been ringing me up asking me to return home,” said the Chandigarh-based Mr. Virmani outside New Delhi’s Le Meridien in the evening, one of the hotels where passengers were put up for the night.

His colleague Ankush Sood recounted: “The aircraft was about to take off when the pilot suddenly applied the brakes. We all fell forward. Everyone was scared and there was complete panic. People got up and began pushing each other. There were a lot of women and children among the passengers aboard. Some of them began screaming out of fear.”

Another passenger who did not wish to be named said though the rescue operation was quite prompt, it was their brief stay at the terminal thereafter that became “very messy”.

“The plane was accelerating for take-off when it suddenly jerked to a stop. We were rushed out of the aircraft very quickly. We waited on the tarmac for about 20 minutes for the coaches to take us to the terminal. But inside the building there was no Air Mauritius staff to give us any information. However, it was the prompt action of the pilot that saved us all,” he said.

Some passengers claimed that only some light refreshments were provided to him during the time they were stranded at the terminal. “They should have given us a proper meal considering we were stuck since about 2 p.m. and reached the hotel only at 8-30 p.m. They only gave us some juice and snacks and that too after a couple of hours had elapsed,” said one passenger.

Mauritian Sanjay Unnuth was agitated as there was no doctor to attend on passengers who suffered bruises while sliding down the chute.

The secondary runway at the airport that was closed due to emergency operations was back in use at 2-30 p.m.

The cause of the fire is being investigated but a suspected bird-hit as reported by the pilot cannot be ruled out, said an airport official.

The flight would now take off at 6 a.m. on Friday, said a passenger.




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