'May Day, May Day,' Said Air India Pilots on Touchdown: William Dalrymple

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Author William Dalrymple says the Air India flight that caught fire on Monday was faulty when it took off.


New Delhi:  Author William Dalrymple was on the Air India flight that made an emergency landing at the Delhi airport on Monday evening and has asked why a faulty aircraft took off at all.

Mr Dalrymple told NDTV that the Khajuraho-Varanasi-Delhi flight was almost cancelled, but passengers were told at the last minute that the plane was fixed and would take off for Delhi from Khajuraho after all.

"It was faulty when they took off," said the British author, who spends most part of a year in Delhi.

On the flight, he said, was an Air India engineer flying with his son who "said he was incredibly nervous...as he did not believe they had sorted the problem. He was doing a mantra (prayers)."

"Yes, there was a delay at Khajuraho because of a snag in the engine... that snag was rectified and only then did the aircraft take of," said a spokesperson for the airline.

Several passengers reported minor injuries and bruises, after the Airbus 320 made an emergency landing in Delhi. Air India said the aircraft had developed a hydraulic failure and caught fire while landing. After touchdown, flames were seen on the left side in the undercarriage of the plane, acquired by the national carrier 21 years ago.

The 146 passengers on board were evacuated on the tarmac and the aircraft was towed away. Air India said about four or five passengers had minor injuries; they received first aid at the airport hospital.

"The minute we touched down they said May Day, May Day, evacuate passengers...they were aware there was a major fault," Mr Darlrymple said.  

Junior minister for aviation Mahesh Sharma had said last night, "The pilot came to know about a leak in the hydraulic system while in the air itself and when the plane was landing."

"Air India flight 405 Varanasi-Delhi had an emergency landing due to hydraulic leak. This resulted in few sparks at the nose wheel. There was no fire," the airline said in a statement.

Last month, the tyre of an Air India plane flying in from Delhi burst after landing at Bangalore's Kempegowda International Airport.


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