SpiceJet plane hits buffalo on runway

SpiceJet plane hits buffalo on runway

A Delhi-bound SpiceJet plane hit a stray buffalo on the runway while rolling for take-off from Surat airport on Thursday night, giving anxious moments to the 146 people on board. All passengers and crew were safe.

An airline spokesperson said the plane’s left engine was “severely damaged” and it had to be grounded after the incident. The incident prompted aviation regulator Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA) to launch a probe. Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju directed officials to take steps to check stray animals on runways.

The incident occurred when the Boeing 737-800 aircraft, operating flight SG-622 to Delhi, had started rolling for take-off at 8:06 pm on Thursday when its left engine hit the buffalo and the plane came to a halt.

The airlines has suspended all operations to Surat . Airline  spokesperson said: “The buffalo was essentially invisible against a dark background.”

Maintaining that all passengers and crew were safe, he said an alternate aircraft was arranged to fly the passengers to Delhi, which left at 10:55 pm on Thursday night.

Noting that stray animals were “a growing menace” in some airports, the SpiceJet spokesperson said the incident has “affected our regular operations and hence the company suspended all its flights from Surat indefinitely. Suspension will be effective immediately.”

Minister Raju, who held a meeting with top officials of the ministry soon after the incident directed the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to take urgent steps to check stray animals on runways of all airports, particularly those in non-metros.

Raju also asked the AAI to launch an inquiry and ensure that such incidents don’t recur at any other airport. The minister asked the AAI to send teams to such vulnerable airports within a month and take remedial measures in three months.

After the meeting, the minister directed the AAI to frame short-term, medium-term and long-term plans for vulnerable airports where such types of airport boundary breaches have been reported.

Civil Aviation Secretary V Somasundaran spoke to the Gujarat chief secretary on the incident, as an FIR was lodged in Surat, senior AAI officials said in New Delhi.

“The plane was running at a high speed and moments before take-off, there was noise from below. We thought it could be because of some damage on the road ... Instead of taking off, the plane stopped right there,” passenger Prabhakar Joshi told reporters.

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