It is every aviator's nightmare - a fully-fuelled Boeing 747 jumbo jet catching fire. That's exactly what happened to an Air India jetliner on Friday in Mumbai as it was ready for take-off. Fortunately, all the passengers were safely evacuated.
A major tragedy for the 213 passengers aboard Air India's Boeing 747-400 was averted somehow in time.
The troublesome journey began at 4.30 am when the flight to Riyadh was aborted because it developed a snag in the engine. The passengers were de-planed and made to wait for over six hours for another aircraft.
At 10:50 am, another AI flight began its journey to Riyadh. While still on the taxiway, smoke started bellowing out from the extreme left engine under the wings. Then there were flames. Three fire engines were rushed in to douse the flames as airline crew evacuated passengers on emergency slides.
In 10 minutes, the crew and passengers were safe on ground. Bystanders at the airport heard about it and became edgy.
"I am really shocked. Airlines need to prioritise safety," said a traveler.
"It's just an accident really, could have happened anywhere," said another traveler.
However, this is not first such incident involving an Air-India flight. Earlier in 2009, a door of an Air India flight was damaged during take-off.
All these incidents have raised serious questions about the safety of the cash-strapped airline.
Air India has now de-rostered an aircraft maintenance engineer and it has also ordered an investigation. A four-member team has been set up to probe into the accident.
The committee will submit a report to the government in a period of two months.