Saturday, March 14, 2015

Air India's 26-year-old plane flies back to Delhi after wheel snag

NEW DELHI: Air India's 26-year-old first batch of Airbus A-320s have become a technical nightmare for the crew operating these 'relics' and passengers flying them. 

On Saturday evening, one of these old planes (VT-EPJ) took off for Vadodara from Delhi with 122 passengers on board as AI 819. But after getting airborne, the left side main landing gear of this 1989-made plane reportedly got stuck. The crew could not retract it and did not get the light which indicates that the left side landing gear door had closed. 

Since the aircraft could not have flown to Vadodara with a wheel suspected to be stuck out, the crew immediately informed Delhi air traffic control about their technical issue and sounded an alarm. "The pilots handled the situation very deftly and the plane made an emergency or precautionary landing at Delhi. The aircraft came to a halt safely," said a source. 

Crew operating these old planes has been complaining about them to the airline for a long time. "The biggest problem in them is problematic weather radar which tells the crew about weather ahead. Pilots get to know about rain or storm ahead through these radars and then accordingly switch on seat belt signs after which everyone gets seated to avoid injuries due to turbulence," said a source. 

The other problem is very high instance of non-functional auxiliary power units which are used to keep aircraft air conditioning on on ground. In the searing Indian summer, there have been several instances of passengers protesting the oven-like aircraft interiors at many airports. "Last year passengers of a flight staged a dharna at Jammu due to this problem," said a source. The other recurring problem with these old planes is hydraulic failure. 

The first batch of these A 320s had started joining erstwhile Indian Airlines in 1989. Then after one of these planes crashed in Bengaluru in February 1990, this fleet was grounded following doubts over its "fly by wire" technology. These planes were finally cleared to fly again in IA in December 1990. 

AI was supposed to phase out these old aircraft and replace them with brand new leased A320s. But with this aircraft not so easy to get in the international market, the old ones still are being used by AI. 

Original article can be found here:

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