By Aditya Anand, Mumbai Mirror | Dec 31, 2015, 03.42 AM IST
It’s the third time this year that a rodent spotting on an Air India plane has disrupted flight service.
An Air India flight from Mumbai to London was forced to return to the city, over a suspected rat spotting. The ten-hour flight had been en route for six hours when it had to turn back.
The aircraft – VT ANQ – a Boeing 787 Dreamliner was flying over Tehran airspace when at about 1 pm local time, a passenger alerted the cabin crew about the presence of a rat. The crew conveyed the information to the pilots – Capt Rajesh Pathak and Capt Mukund Thorat. As required under standard operating procedure, they decided to return to Mumbai immediately.
The aircraft had originally taken off from Ahmedabad at 4.30 am, arrived in Mumbai at 5.45 am and departed for London at 7.05 am.
This is the third suspected rat sighting for the national carrier this year. On July 30, an Air India flight was forced to return to New Delhi two hours into a flight to Milan, after a suspected rat sighting in the cabin. At the time, the airline had said no rodent had been found, but it had no choice but to turn back and fumigate the aircraft, once a rat was reportedly on board. Similarly, in May, passengers on a flight to Leh spotted rats scurrying around the plane.
Rats pose a serious threat to the safety of flights as they can chew through wires and damage internal controls. “They often hitch rides on food catering trucks that store the flight meal trays. In this case, it might have also got in at Ahmedabad, from where the flight originated,” aviation expert Vipul Saxena said.
The AI spokesperson said Air India gives the utmost importance to safety and that its engineering team was investigating the incident. “A standby aircraft was made available to fly the passengers to London. The aircraft with the suspected rodent is being fumigated as per procedure,” he said.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also simultaneously ordered a probe into the incident. “We have asked urgently for a report. The chief of flight operations will submit it to the regulator,” a senior DGCA official said.
For passengers who were actually on the flight manifest, it meant a long delay to London. The stand-by aircraft finally left at 6:30 pm last evening, almost 12 hours after the initial departure.