A special Air India flight that rescued 324 Indians from Wuhan, the epicentre of the Coronavirus outbreak, had made an emergency landing after one of its windshields cracked mid-air, officials said on Friday.
A complete emergency was declared and the aircraft, Boeing 747-400, landed safely at the Delhi airport and was taken to an isolation bay where people were screened for signs of Coronavirus.
The flight, which arrived in Delhi on Sunday, was the second of two special services that saved 645 people. All of the rescued citizens have since tested negative for the deadly Coronavirus that has triggered a global health risk after infecting more than 31,000 people and claiming the lives of 630 others over a period of one and a half months since its first detection.
Full emergency, a protocol that is initiated onboard in times of distress, was declared on flight AI-1349 soon as soon as the pilots reported that the left side windshield had shattered, the officials said.
“Around 9.30 am, we declared an emergency and the flight was provided a slot for landing on priority. Ambulances and firefighters were put on standby to tackle any situation but the flight landed safely. The emergency was called off around 10.15 am,” said an official from the Delhi Air Traffic Control (ATC).
The officer added that the flight was taken to an isolation bay for further processing, along with the evacuees to quarantine facilities to detect symptoms of Coronavirus.
A DGCA officer confirmed the incident and said they are looking into the matter.
Captain Amitabh Singh, Director of Operations, Air India, said the windshield had a crack during the last stage of the flight.
“An urgency message was transmitted to Delhi ATC for priority landing. At no time was the safety of passenger or aircraft compromised.
An auto-land (a system that fully automates the landing of an aircraft) was carried out on Runway 28 at Delhi airport with full precautions,” Singh said.
Global Aviation Safety expert Mark D Martin said such an incident is not dangerous as the cockpit windshields have many layers and are around three inches thick.
“In case one layer shatters, others remain intact. However, to prevent further damage, the pilot needs to request immediate descend so the pressure inside the aircraft doesn’t increase and doesn’t cause any further stress on the windshield,” Martin said.
He said that possible reasons for the windshield shattering can be air pressure.
(Inputs from ANI)