Gulf Air pilots avert major tragedy
Manama, August 30, 2011
The professionalism of two Bahraini pilots averted a tragedy when a Gulf Air flight skidded off the runway on Monday while landing at Kochi International Airport in India due to extreme wet weather conditions.
This was in addition to the well-serviced aircraft and contribution of the cabin crew, according to passengers.
'This was not the pilots' first time at Kochi and they know the conditions well,' said Gulf Air chief operating officer Captain Nasser Al Salmi.
He said the pilot, who is 35, had been with the airline since 2002 and had experience in flying Airbus A320, 330 and 340.
'He has now been a captain for the last 18 months,' Capt Al Salmi told a Press conference at the Gulf Air headquarters in Muharraq.
He said the co-pilot, 37, had joined Gulf Air last year and had several years' experience with other airlines.
'The aircraft also has an up-to-date service record and has been in service for only 18 months,' said Capt Al Salmi.
He said all 137 passengers were evacuated from the aircraft within two minutes.
'No one jumped from the plane, but some sustained injuries as a result of evacuation-related procedures,' said Capt Al Salmi.
'We think the incident happened as a result of bad weather, but we have to wait for investigations to conclude.'
Capt Al Salmi said the cockpit voice recorder and the black box would determine the exact cause of the incident.
'Experts from Airbus, who are already in Kochi, would also be involved in the investigations,' he said.
A special team comprising officials from care and support, engineering and safety, legal and insurance as well as two representatives from Bahrain's Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) had been deployed to co-ordinate with authorities for further investigations and recovery of the aircraft.
'The aircraft remained fully intact, but suffered a nose gear collapse during the skid,' said Capt Al Salmi.
He said the airline was co-operating fully with Indian and Bahraini civil aviation authorities to identify the cause of the incident.
Meanwhile, Gulf Air passengers, who escaped unharmed, spoke of the calm professionalism of crew and ground authorities.
Seven passengers were injured in evacuation-related procedures, though only one required hospital care for a broken leg sustained as he reportedly jumped off the emergency chute.
Passengers K H Abdul Nessir said that there was an announcement from the cockpit that they would land at 3.55am.
'As we landed, there was a sudden noise and then the plane dipped towards the front suddenly,' he said, speaking from his home in Alleppey, near Kochi.
'A million thoughts crossed my mind before I heard the calm voice of one of the cabin crew asking passengers to evacuate. The crew were very calm and professional and that gave passengers a lot of confidence.'
'Some of the passengers wanted to be the first to get out while also collect their cabin baggage and, in their panic, jumped off the emergency slides that had been deployed.'
Nessir, who works in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, for a Bahrain-based company, said many of the passengers followed cabin crew advice and evacuated from the slide.
'We were on the ground in heavy rain for a few minutes before buses arrived to take us to the terminal building,' he said.
He said all passengers were at the terminal building in around 30 minutes.
'The pilots and crew were there as well and spoke to us. They were very friendly and calm and we felt good,' said Nessir.
Nessir later left Kochi for Alleppey, along with his wife, son and grandchild.
Isa Abdulredha Al Shaikh, 34, a businessman, the only Bahraini on board, said he was fast asleep when there was a loud noise and the plane shook violently.
'I woke up to see everyone in panic and trying to leave the aircraft,' he said.
'I, however, made my way to the nearest exit with the cabin crew's help and exited the plane safely. Some people were injured because apparently they slipped in the wet conditions and some may have jumped in panic.'
He said he was approached by the two pilots and crew inside the terminal building.
'The whole process was handled in a very professional manner,' he said.-TradeArabia News Service