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Unusual incident grounds Air India Airbus A319 for three weeks

An unusual incident has resulted in the grounding of a new, front line, Airbus A319 aircraft of national carrier Air India, for almost three weeks in Bangalore which is conservatively expected to cost the airline more than Rs. 5 Crore ($1.2 million).

A damaged VT-SCL Air India Airbus A319-112 sits on the ramp at Bengaluru International Airport. The CFM engine is wrapped up.A damaged VT-SCL sits on the ramp at Bengaluru International Airport.

On November 27, 2010 at 00:05 IST ( 18:35-1 Z), VT-SCL which was delivered with much fan-fare at India Aviation 2008, was performing flight AI-444 from Bangalore to Singapore. On take-off the right engine cowling came loose. Due to force of wind the cowling was ripped off the engine. Sources indicate there was no alarm, initially, on the flight deck. The missing cowling was noticed by a lay passenger who, with great trepidation, alerted the cabin crew that the right engine was “missing”. Airport safety officers found bits of the cowling strewn on the runway. Soon after, the flight crew declared an emergency and returned to the Bengaluru International airport, landed safely, and the passengers disembarked normally.

In the course of this incident, the entire pylon and engine mounting assembly has been mis-aligned. As good as Air India engineering is, this is an exceptional airframe and engine structural issue, and requires the efforts and skills of both airframe manufacturer Airbus S.A.S. and engine manufacturer CFM International to first align the airframe and engine mounts, before the Air India engineering team can take over and effect the actual repairs to the engine itself.

An Air India spokesperson and other sources have confirmed that a team which includes structural specialists from Airbus is expected to arrive sometime next week to commence the repairs.

This three week delay was apparently due to the unusual nature of the incident. The airline, which has a good reputation for its engineering department, had a tough time convincing the rather incredulous officials in the air-worthiness department of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, who initially just would not accept the reasons and the results of the incident, to grant the needed permissions so that visas could be obtained for the repair team.

Surely this is an incident the financial burdened carrier can ill afford.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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