Pilots frequently encounter hazards like bird hits, a short runway and tall trees while operating at the Patna airport, where nearly 200 people on board a Delhi-bound aircraft recently had a close shave, as the plane caught fire soon after take-off, experts said.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has initiated a probe into the incident that took place on June 19 at the Jay Prakash Narayan International Airport.
“We will be able to know the exact cause only after completion of the investigation. However, the Patna airport has remained a critical spot for pilots. On one side, there are tall trees that make landing or taking off a tricky affair,” V K Bhalla, former chief of Air India Pliots Union, told PTI.
“The safe emergency landing of the SpiceJet flight was possible due to the cool and calm efforts of both pilots and crew members. But, I must say that when trees are not removed from one side of the runway, such incidents are bound to happen. Trees invite birds. The investigating team must look into these aspects at the Patna airport,” Bhalla added.
In a statement, SpiceJet had said on take-off, the cockpit crew suspected a bird hit on engine 1 during rotation of the aircraft, which was flying from Patna to Delhi. There were 185 passengers on board.
“As a precautionary measure and as per SOP (standard operating procedure), the captain shut down the affected engine and decided to return to Patna,” it said.
Experts also believe that the Patna airport is marked as critical due to its short runway. Of its 2,286-metre runway, only 1,954 metres are actually available for use by pilots for take-off due to location constraints.
“Open abattoirs, meat shops and garbage dumps near the airport also invite birds. The waste dumps are kept clean by the authorities, but I am not aware about the measures taken by the district administration in view of the abattoirs and meat shops,” Anchal Prakash, Director of Jay Prakash Narayan International Airport, told PTI.
On July 17, 2000, the airport had hit the headlines when a Delhi-bound Boeing 737 aircraft, coming from Kolkata, ploughed through a residential colony soon after take-off killing more than 60 people, including six local residents.
The court of inquiry, which was subsequently ordered, said in its report that the runway was too short.
(With PTI inputs)