Over 140 passengers and crew of a Gulf Air plane from Bahrain had a narrow escape today when the Airbus A-320 skidded off the runway into a muddy area while landing at the international airport here amid heavy rains.
The plane, with 137 passengers and six crew, veered off the runway at 3.55 am breaking its nose-wheel. One person was hospitalised with fractures and six with minor injuries discharged after first aid, airport sources said.
Cochin International Airport Limited Managing Director V J Kurien told reporters that strong winds and heavy rains which lashed Kochi early this morning could have been the cause of the mishap.
The runway had not been damaged and the pilots had not asked for emergency landing, he said.
Kurien said the pilot had told him he could see the runway clearly when he was six nautical miles away from the airport.
Heavy rains and winds lashed the area and the pilot could not see the runway when the flight was just above 532 meters, hich is below the decision making height after which the only
option was to land, Kurien said.
Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi said rain and wind appear to be the reasons behind a Gulf Air plane skidding off the runway while landing at the International Airport in Kochi even as DGCA ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Ravi said initial reports suggest the incident took place due to the weather conditions and the runway is "long enough."
"DGCA has asked for a report. The report which has come to me is that it is a difficult place though the runway is long enough. The rains and winds were there. Then, it landed and slipped," he told reporters here.
Most passengers coming home for Eid said they were taken totally unawares and claimed that the crew did not inform them of any emergency. Only after the emergency door opened did they realise the plane had strayed off the runway.
"We all jumped from the plane. It was only due to God's grace we are safe," a passenger said
Air traffic went haywire as flights were diverted to Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Bangalore. Consequently, the runway had to be closed for nearly eight hours.
The Director General of Civil Aviation has ordered an enquiry into the mishap.
The runway has now been partially opened for smaller aircraft with three flights already landing, Airport Director A C K Nair, said.
An Oman Airways flight diverted to Bangalore landed at