India

Indian airline SpiceJet hits buffalo during take-off

  • 7 November 2014
  • From the section India
SpiceJet planes on tarmac Image copyright AFP
Image caption SpiceJet is India's fourth-largest airline by market share

An Indian aircraft hit a stray buffalo during take-off from the western city of Surat, but no passengers or crew were injured.

The Delhi-bound SpiceJet plane, carrying 146 passengers and crew, was grounded on Thursday because of the damage sustained in the accident.

SpiceJet said the buffalo, which was killed in the crash, was "essentially invisible against a black background".

SpiceJet is India's fourth-biggest airline by market share.

The airline said in a statement that the Boeing 737-800 aircraft hit the buffalo on "take-off roll" at Surat airport.

Passengers on the plane were transferred to another aircraft.

"Stray animals are a growing menace in some airports. This incident has affected our regular operations and hence SpiceJet flights from Surat will now be suspended indefinitely," an airline statement said.

Its Chief Operating Officer Sanjiv Kapoor blamed lax airport security for the incident saying on Twitter that "a buffalo on the runway" was "simply inexcusable".

Image copyright Tweet

One passenger, Prabhakar Joshi, said he heard a loud noise as if "something had hit the wheel" just as the plane began picking up speed.

"If it had been seconds later, after the plane lifted off, it would have been a disaster for us," he told the NDTV news channel.

India has had a good air safety record over the past decade, which has also witnessed a sharp increase in the number of private airlines and an expansion of air travel across the country.

Airports in India are generally well protected with perimeter fences, but maintenance at some smaller airports may be inadequate.

Nonetheless correspondents say animals straying into airports over the years have led to serious safety concerns. In June 2008, close to 100 flights were disrupted on a single day after a family of monitor lizards crawled out onto the Delhi airport runway, forcing its closure for an hour.

On other occasions, reports said jackals, antelopes, peacocks, porcupines, snakes, monkeys, foxes and dogs have strayed onto runways.

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