In separate incidents, two SpiceJet planes returned to their main airport shortly after takeoff on Sunday, one with a bird strike in Patna and the other with a technical glitch from Delhi that caused a “cabin pressure problem”. In a third incident, an Indigo plane returned to Guwahati a few minutes after takeoff due to a bird injury.
All three incidents will be investigated by the DGCA, the regulator of aviation safety.
On Sunday afternoon, a Delhi-bound Boeing 737-800 operated by Gurugram-based low-cost airline made an emergency landing at Patna, minutes after takeoff from there, after one of its engines hit a bird. The plane had 175 passengers and six crew members.
A senior government official said the pilots suspected a bird had hit the left engine during takeoff but the climb continued. Later, the cabin crew informed the pilot-in-command that they saw a spark from the engine, after which the pilots shut down the power plant and made an emergency landing, the official said.
“During the takeoff, the cockpit crew suspected that a bird had hit Engine No. 1 (left engine). Since the crew did not notice any abnormalities, the plane continued to climb more, ”he said.
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“Later, the cabin crew informed the pilots about the spark coming from the engine … The crew announced the pan-pan and decided to return to Patna. The ATC was informed about this, and the flight crew and passengers returned safely to Patna without any injuries, ”the official said.
The PAN-PAN message is signaled by the cockpit crew that they have a situation that is urgent but does not pose an immediate danger to anyone’s life or the aircraft.
Danger of rain
Aviation authorities have listed bird injuries as one of their most important safety priorities. The problem is exacerbated during the rainy season when the presence of insects in the open, such as in the airfield, attracts birds.
Visitors near Patna Airport saw dark smoke coming from the plane’s left engine when it returned.
In a statement, a SpiceJet spokesperson said: “During takeoff, during the rotation, the cockpit crew hit the suspected bird engine # 1. As a precautionary measure and according to the SOP, the captain decided to stop the damaged engine and return to Patna. The plane landed safely in Patna and The passengers were safely disembarked. After inspecting the flight, it was found that the blades of 3 fans were damaged due to bird strike.
Earlier on Sunday, another SpiceJet aircraft, a Bombardier Q400 Dash 8, caused a cabin pressure problem after departing from Delhi. As soon as the plane took off from Delhi, the pilots noticed that the cabin pressure was not created in line with the increase in altitude. After that, the crew decided to return and the plane returned safely to Delhi.
This aircraft model typically travels at about 20,000 feet, and due to the reduction in air pressure at higher altitudes, the planes are designed to create artificial pressure in the cabin, such as at lower altitudes.
Regarding the incident, a SpiceJet spokesperson said: “On June 19, the SpiceJet Q400 aircraft was operating SG-2962 (Delhi-Jabalpur). During the initial climb, the crew noticed that the pressure difference in the cabin did not develop as the height of the cabin increased. The plane was flown at 6,000 feet. The pressure was not restored. PIC (Pilot in Command) has decided to return to Delhi. The plane landed safely in Delhi. ”
In the case of Indigo, a government official said the left engine of the Airbus A320neo was damaged by a bird strike while it was at an altitude of 1,600 feet after takeoff for Delhi. “The engine stopped and the plane returned to Guwahati,” the official said.
Confirming the incident, Indigo said in a statement: “IndiGo Airbus A320neo (VT-ITB) operating flight 6E 6394 from Guwahati-Delhi returned to Guwahati Airport after another flight to Delhi due to a suspected bird injury after takeoff. The plane is being kept on the ground for necessary inspections. ”