Saturday, February 25, 2012

Flights diverted as stranded cargo plane blocks runway

CHENNAI: Several take-offs from Chennai airport were delayed for nearly an hour and four incoming flights were diverted after a cargo aircraft got stuck on the main runway on Friday.

The cargo flight was being towed from the cargo terminal to a remote parking bay at the airport when the tow vehicle developed a snag. The incident happened at 11pm, when a large number of domestic flights were coming in to land at the airport.

The giant Russian-made IL76 transport aircraft belonging to a cargo airline almost crossed the main runway when a tow bar used by the towing vehicle snapped. The plane got stranded at the point where the main runway intersects the secondary runway near the cargo terminal. Flights were not able to use the full length of the runway because the cargo aircraft stood too close to the main runway.

Sources said about 1,000 feet of the 12,000-foot runway could not be used. "We allowed smaller aircraft like ATR, which requires just 4,000 feet of runway length, to land. But take-offs were suspended because the length of the runway was not adequate to ensure safety," said an airport official.

Airport director E P Hareendranathan said the plane had some heavy cargo and it was being moved to vacate the apron when the incident happened. "The airline brought its pilot and moved the plane away from the runway," he said. The incident sent airlines and airport officials into a spin since it coincided with the busiest slot, 9pm to 11.30pm. The airport has only one runway in use.

"The plane was allowed to be towed when there was no traffic. They were supposed to cross the runway in a few minutes, but did not.

Technicians were rushed to the spot to find out if the plane can be moved. As their efforts failed, apron staff relayed the information to the air traffic control officials who in turn informed incoming flights. Pilots were told that a portion of the main runway will be closed. Bigger planes were diverted to other airports, while smaller aircraft were allowed to land," said an official.

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