- The IndiGo flight made an emergency landing after smoke filled the cabin
- IndiGo confirmed engine problem led to the buildup of smoke
- Airlines operating the A-320neo have been facing a number of issues
"It smelt like a burning heater" says Subhomoy Halder, a 16-year-old Class 10 student who was onboard IndiGo 6E-237 on Monday evening, an Airbus A-320neo flight between Jaipur and Kolkata.
The teenager was not flying alone. His parents were with him when something went dreadfully wrong inside the aircraft.
"There was smoke everywhere. And it was getting thicker by the minute... At one stage, it was so strong, that our eyes started to hurt," he says.
The problem began "about 25 minutes before the flight was to land" says the teenager.
"The pilot had announced that the flight was about to land. Then I smelt something burning and the cabin was looking foggy."
Babies wailing, air hostesses on the standby with oxygen cylinders ... thick smoke in the cabin of a new IndiGo A-320neo which made an emergency landing in Kolkata last night. 136 passengers onboard. Smoke on a plane is a known killer. pic.twitter.com/VJGMIQoauk- Vishnu Som (@VishnuNDTV) December 11, 2018
Today, IndiGo, India's largest airline, confirmed that a serious engine problem had resulted in the buildup of smoke inside the cabin of the jetliner, a brand new type plagued by serious engine failures.
"The smoke development was due to oil leakage going through the air system" says the airline adding, "there was no fire on board."
Be that as it may, smoke is a known killer in civil aviation and onboard the A-320neo, passengers were clearly in discomfort.
Oxygen masks, which deploy in the event of a drop in cabin pressure, had not dropped down. Neither are these designed to filter out smoke completely. That can only be done by the full face masks that pilots wear up in the cockpit in the event of a smoke or fire emergency.
"There was a baby in the back and they used an oxygen cylinder to help the baby" says Subhomoy. Videos of the incident corroborate this account. A flight attendant can be seen carrying a portable oxygen cylinder. A baby can be clearly heard bawling in the background.
As the smoke in the cabin intensified, "the air hostesses told us to cover our faces and noses."
"They told us not to get off our seats and to stay calm. Just before landing, they told us to cooperate with them," Subhomoy says.
But the ordeal of the 136 passengers onboard was hardly over.
Passengers in the back of the Airbus, including Subhamoy and his parents had to be evacuated through the emergency chute.
"There were fire tenders all round," he says. Passengers were put onto buses and taken away to the terminal.
After the IndiGo emergency landing in Kolkata ... some passengers were evacuated from a chute at the rear. The A-320neo is still grounded. Engineers still apparently unclear about what happened. pic.twitter.com/ssapifmsVo- Vishnu Som (@VishnuNDTV) December 11, 2018
The IndiGo A-320neo involved in the emergency landing in Kolkata remains grounded and will have its engine replaced.
This is the latest in a series of problems encountered by airlines operating the A-320neo equipped with new generation Pratt and Whitney engines designed to provide unprecedented fuel efficiency. In March this year, India's aviation watchdog, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, had grounded eleven Airbus A-320neo airliners, eight of which were being operated by IndiGo.
"We were very scared" says Subhomoy. "As a student, I wondered if I would be able to fulfil my dreams. I did think that there could be an accident."