Air India Express pilots continued flying a Boeing 737 towards Dubai unaware that the plane was damaged after it demolished part of a brick wall and a hit an instrument landing system antenna on take-off.
The Boeing 737-800, headed to Dubai from Tiruchirappalli International Airport in Tamil Nadu, flew for just over four hours after hitting the perimeter wall and localizer antenna.
It landed safely in Mumbai after being diverted there as a “precautionary measure”.
India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation has started an investigation into the incident involving the Boeing 737-800 on October 12 and the pilots have been suspended from flying.
Flight IX-611 had 136 passengers and crew on board when it hit the wall about 1000ft (305m) past the end of the runway about 1:30 am local time.
The Times of India reported passengers asked about the plane’s “scary rocking” but were told by crew it was normal.
The newspaper speculated that the plane was overloaded and a number of Indian flight crew told media organizations that the airline was lucky the accident had not been more serious.
Respected air accident website The Aviation Herald said the aircraft was over the Arabian sea about 500 nautical miles west of Mumbai when airport officials informed the pilots that they may have hit the airport perimeter wall.
“The crew, unaware of any anomaly, responded that all systems were working normally,’’ the website said. “It was however decided to turn around and divert to Mumbai as a precaution.”
The plane landed safely in Mumbai about 5:35 am local time and was found to have significant damage with a large gash along its underside. Fencing was also wrapped around the undercarriage.
Indian media said officials were also investigating reports that a passenger in a passing car was injured when the plane hit the wall and antenna.
According to a company statement, the captain had 3600 hours of flight experience on the aircraft type and about 500 hours in command. The first officer had 3000 hours of flight experience on B737s.
Air India Express last had a fatal accident in 2010 when 158 people died after a Boeing 737 overshot the runway in Mangalore and fell into a gorge, according to the Aviation Safety Network’s accident database.
However, a plane taxiing to ramp at Cochin International Airport in 2017 left the taxiway and crossed a concrete stormwater drain, prompted the nose gear to collapse and leaving the main gear in the drain.