Air India Express flight diverted after tail strike

An Air India Express Boeing 737 on the taxiway.
Sean d'Silva (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2), via Wikimedia Commons

Last week saw yet another incident involving Air India Express – the low-cost subsidiary arm of Air India. On Friday 24 February, Air India Express (AIX) Flight IX 385 departed from Calicut International Airport for Dammam in Saudi Arabia. From AviationSource writer Gaurav Gowda:

Air India Express – Calicut to Dammam

Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft declared a general emergency and headed towards the ocean to dump fuel. Finally, the aircraft made an unscheduled landing at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.

The aircraft – a Boeing 737 with 176 passengers and 6 crew onboard – had suffered hydraulic issues due to tail strike whilst taking off from Calicut.

All passengers on-board were disembarked safely; however, this incident prompted the airport authorities at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to go into emergency mode.

The airspace was cleared and emergency services including fire engines and ambulances made their way towards the runway. 

The Indian regulator DGCA has already ordered a probe into this incident and the pilots involved in this incident have been taken off-duty until the investigation is complete.

Tail strike on departure

A “Tail Strike” is an incident where the lower part of the aircraft tail strikes the ground during aircraft rotation and take-off.

The flight took off at 9:44 AM local time from Calicut International Airport, and soon after this they noticed issues with their hydraulic system.

The PIC decided made the decision to make a precautionary landing, but to facilitate a safe landing they had to dump fuel as the aircraft had loaded fuel for the flight to Dammam.

The flight was placed in a holding pattern for almost 2:30hrs as it dumped and burned fuel at the same time, giving authorities at Thiruvananthapuram to prepare for the landing.

Air India Express decided to divert this aircraft to Thiruvananthapuram as they have major maintenance and overhaul facility available at the airport, which would help them effects any repairs and make the aircraft serviceable again.

Disembarkation at Thiruvanthapuram

At 12:15 PM the aircraft landed safely at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. Passengers safely disembarked the flight and were given refreshments at the terminal. The airline arranged for an alternative flight which subsequently took off at 5:14 PM IST.

Airport authorities at Thiruvananthapuram said “Initially, the flight was scheduled to land at 11.03 AM but later it was rescheduled to 12.15 PM.”

“At 11.36 we declared full emergency at the airport and all the emergency services were pressed into action, All the ambulances and the three crash fire tenders at the airport were ready and the emergency gates were opened.”

“Ambulances from nearby hospitals and three buses carrying police reached the Airport as a precautionary measure”.

Soon after the aircraft landed the authorities conducted a “two-way runway inspection” to make sure that the runway was safe for normal operations and then re-opened the runway.

A detailed investigation by the AAIB is now underway. They will submit a report to the DGCA soon. Based on their findings, further action may be taken.

The pilot has been de-rostered for the time being, the airline said in statement regarding the incident.

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