A Learjet crash-landed at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, with one wing igniting on the taxiway uniform, situated near the domestic terminal. The second wing detached and fell aside, while the aircraft's nose and fuselage suffered significant damage. CCTV footage revealed an Akasa aircraft preparing for take-off just 25 feet away, with an IndiGo plane in queue behind it. The incident led to 40 flight diversions to Goa, Ahmedabad, and Surat.
Heavy downpour during aircraft's landing posed danger
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has initiated an investigation and rushed a team from Delhi to the crash site. The 14-year-old aircraft was deemed airworthy, and the visibility was recorded at 700m, as per the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). The heavy downpour at 5.03 pm during the aircraft's landing is believed to have played a role in the mishap.
Water accumulation on the runway caused the aircraft to crash and drag approximately 30 feet, bringing it near taxiway uniform, as per a DGCA source. The CCTV footage gave a vivid account of the aircrafts final moments, showing it veering to its starboard (right) side, moving away from the runway. The pilot in command, Captain Sunil Kunjrawat, previously flew with Spicejet and is seasoned in handling such aircraft. As against this, the co-pilot, Captain Neil Diwan, is relatively new to the profession.
An airport insider remarked, "The aircraft's crash landing near taxiway uniform, in close proximity to other planes, could've resulted in a major catastrophe." The runway was promptly closed, affecting five scheduled landings and eight take-offs. Another source from the airport added, "It wasn't just a runway skid; it was a crash landing. It seems there was a failure, possibly engine-related, but further investigations will confirm that."
The impact on the nose has left the pilots in a critical condition. The wings, containing fuel, caught fire upon impact. Multiple flights faced diversions following the incident. Two Vistara and one Akasa Airlines flights were rerouted to Bangalore, while an Air India flight from Dubai was sent to Ahmedabad. A Vistara flight from Dehradun to Mumbai was diverted to Goa. Five aircraft landed at Surat airport.
VSR Aviation, the operator of the Learjet, is a New Delhi-based firm known for offering safe and affordable air travel for corporate clients and those travelling to remote destinations. Learjet, established by school dropout Bill Lear, is famed for transporting the global elite in luxurious aircraft. The ill-fated plane, registered as VTDBL, was acquired in Buffalo, New York, in March 2021 and reached India the following month. At the time of purchase, it had logged 4,700 hours.