(MENAFN - Arab News) An engine of a Riyadh-bound Air India plane with 213 passengers on board caught fire when it was taxiing for takeoff from Mumbai airport on Friday, but all escaped unhurt as the flight was aborted and the fire immediately put out.
The incident, confirmed by an official from the Air India office in Riyadh, occurred at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai at 10.45 a.m. on Friday. The official said that the fire was put out and all passengers were safely evacuated. The AI-829 flight, deployed on a Boeing 747-437 aircraft named "Konark," was bound for Saudi Arabia's capital.
It was trying to take off after a nine-hour delay caused by a technical fault. The fire was noticed on the engine fitted below the aircraft's left wing. It was immediately brought to a halt and the emergency services alerted. Passengers reported sparks coming from the engine after which the plane was grounded. Emergency chutes allowed the passengers to slide down to safety and four fire tenders were rushed to the spot. Air India spokesman Jitendra Bhargava said that the cause of the fire is being investigated.
A probe has also been ordered into the incident by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). According to an Air India official, the fire is suspected to have been caused by a technical snag. Alternative arrangements were later made for the passengers.
Elaborating on the incident, Bhargava said that the fire was in one of the engines and that it was noticed during push back (during the taxiing after doors were ordered shut). He added that all of the passengers were moved to the terminal and sent to Riyadh in the evening by a special flight.
The passengers, who were delayed by 16 and a half hours, were expected to reach Riyadh at around 8.00 p.m. on Friday.
Meanwhile, the 196 passengers who were to board the same plane from Riyadh at 4.30 a.m. on Friday were also stranded at the King Khaled International Airport. An Air India official here said that the departing passengers have been accommodated in a city hotel and will leave Riyadh airport at 9.00 p.m. by flight No. 928 to Cochin via Thiruvananthapuram.
According to Indian television reports, a fuel leak is believed to be the cause of the fire. An aircraft engineer was sent on leave pending inquiry into the engine catching fire. The engineer was responsible for supervising the departure of the Riyadh-bound flight.
By Mohammed Rasooldeen