Soft mud makes aircraft recovery at Mumbai airport tough


Hard surface path being built to tow away SpiceJet plane from runway

Intermittent rain and soft slushy mud ensured that despite a 15-member Air India Engineering Services Ltd (AIESL) team working non-stop at recovering the disabled SpiceJet aircraft, it continued to remain stuck at Mumbai airport, making the main runway unusable throughout Thursday.

Air India’s engineers, who are using a damaged aircraft recovery kit to recover the disabled Boeing 737-800, said in a media interaction that they had managed to move the aircraft by only about 50-60 metres so far. The aircraft has sunk about 250 m into slushy soil.

The SpiceJet flight from Jaipur, carrying 167 passengers and the crew, overshot the runway on Monday night after landing amid heavy rain, leaving the plane stuck partially on the main runway. Airport operator Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) issued a Notice to Airmen declaring the main runway closed, and the shorter secondary runway was put to use.

Bibek Kumar Bagchi, general manager, engineering, AIESL, whose team has spent sleepless nights trying to extract the aircraft, said the challenge was steering aircraft through the soft mud. “Three attempts were made at recovering the aircraft. However, it kept moving and the wheels sunk in the soil. The airport operator is working on constructing a hard surface path using metal sheets, so that it can be pulled out onto the paved area,” Mr. Bagchi said.

The AIESL team had placed four airbags to lift the aircraft. “We have used two 40-ton and two 30-ton airbags below the aircraft. After lifting the aircraft, we have placed the nose on a trailer truck that will push it out once the hard surface path is ready,” Mr. Bagchi said.

Explaining the concept of aircraft recovery, he said Air India was a member of the International Airlines Technical Pool and thus offered services to both members and non-members. SpiceJet, is a non-member, Mr. Bagchi said.

For non-member, the cost for the use of an aircraft recovery kit — like the standard kit that Air India has — includes an uplift fee of $1,20,000 and a usage fee of $6,000 per day. In the present case, the kit has been in use from Tuesday noon.

Mr. Bagchi said it was the aircraft owner or airport operator’s responsibility to remove a disabled aircraft or part thereof. “They are responsible to define the procedure to follow. In the event of failure to comply with such responsibility, aerodrome authorities have the right to remove the aircraft and define the procedure to follow,” he said.

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Printable version | Jul 20, 2019 8:23:04 AM |

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