An Air India flight bound for New Delhi with 130 people on board made an emergency landing in Nawabshah on Monday due to technical problems, aviation officials said.
The Airbus A320 from Abu Dhabi made the unscheduled stop at Nawabshah airport in the wee hours of Monday after its three hydraulic systems failed over Pakistani airspace and pilots contacted the control tower, seeking permission to land, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesman Pervez George said.
However, the Times of India cited Air India engineers flown to Nawabshah airport as saying that the cockpit panel had emitted a ‘false alarm’ about a technical problem.
They added that there was nothing wrong with the hydraulic system of the aircraft and, apparently the cockpit panel emitted a false alarm causing red lights to blip. “However, even such a technical glitch has to be corrected and that is being done.”
The aircraft was grounded for nearly 12 hours before an Air India relief plane flew them to New Delhi airport.
Interestingly, the Indian captain was offered use of the airport lounges at Nawabshah for the flight’s 122 passengers and eight crew, an official said, but he refused.
Another official said the crew and passengers were even offered breakfast in the airport lounge. He added that the crew was given assurances that the passengers would not have to go through strict screening if they had disembarked.
“We had offered them full cooperation but the Airbus captain did not allow the passengers to disembark and requested drinking water only,” said Sultan Hasan, the spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi had instructed CAA chief Nadeem Khan Yousufzai to provide all possible facilities and assistance to the crew and passengers of the Air India plane, said George.
“The pilot asked the control tower for permission and it was allowed to land,” he said, adding that no special protocol is required in such cases.
Air India would have to pay $13,740 as charges for using the airport, said another CAA official. The CAA did not say why the Airbus 319 aircraft landed in Nawabshah instead of Karachi, which is better equipped to deal with such emergencies.
Pakistan Air Force and Sindh Rangers took control of the airport after the emergency landing and barred anyone from entering its premises, including police officials.
It was the second emergency landing at Nawabshah airport since April this year. Earlier, two Karachi-bound flights – Airblue Airlines 201 and PIA 303 – were diverted to Shaheed Benazirabad carrying 217 and 218 passengers, respectively.
(With additional input from AFP and Ismail Domki in Hyderabad)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.
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