Blame it on poor training or the rain in Mumbai, a SpiceJet aircraft got stuck on the runway. This led to the cancellation of 201 flights and delaying of 370 more. The plane remained stuck on the runway and could not be cleared until late Tuesday as the only Disabled Aircraft Retrieval Kit (DARK) in India was in Mangaluru to clear an Air India Express plane, which overshot the runway there on Sunday.
An Air India official said there is just one DARK in South Asia. “It is with Air India. As per the regulations, we have to send it to wherever it is required. Air India had sent the kit to Kathmandu once to retrieve an aircraft. Airlines refrain from buying their kit because of the heavy capital investment and maintenance cost,’’ the official said on condition of anonymity. He said the need for DARK at two different airports at the same time is rare. “…airlines feel such incidents happen rarely.” The kit reached Mumbai around 1 pm Tuesday.
DARK is used whenever aircraft get stuck in soft surfaces after veering off from runways. It is placed below the stuck portion of an aircraft and then blown like a balloon to lift it.
Aviation safety expert Mohan Ranganathan said the Mumbai incident reflects “very, very, poor training” on part of the airline. “Landing in rainy conditions is not difficult at all if the training is proper. Also, it is time for the ministry of civil aviation and aviation regulator to intervene before any tragedy.” Ranganathan said an airport must have equipments to retrieve aircraft in four hours in such situations to get a license.
“Crew should be encouraged to go-around [abort landing] when approach becomes unstabilised or in case of any condition which reduces visual references to enable a safe landing. The crew rostering should factor in the fatigue element associated with the operations during the adverse weather conditions,” said a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) circular.