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03 December 2023

Sharjah-bound Air India flight catches fire

By VM Sathish

More than 100 passengers on a Sharjah-bound Air India flight (IA 977) had a narrow escape after the aircraft made emergency landing in Mumbai due to an engine fire.

Passengers said they heard a huge sound and spotted fire emanating from one of the two engines of the aircraft while it was flying over the sea, leading to the immediate diversion of the aircraft to Mumbai, where passengers and crew landed safely.

Air India flight AI 997, from Karippur International Airport to Sharjah left the Calicut Airport at around 8pm on Friday with more than 100 passengers on board. Some passengers panicked after hearing the explosion and the subsequent power failure in the flight. The incident happened about one-and-a-half hours after the aircraft took off.

“On Friday night at 8pm, we took the flight and after one-and-a-half hours, there was panic on board and flight attendants tried to pacify the scared passengers.

"I know from the disturbance and fire that it was a critical situation. We are safe now because of the prompt action by the pilot, Captain Rajanish Kumar and his crew. Otherwise I could not be talking to you now,” said Nithin Rajan, a 25-year-old Indian businessman in the UAE, who was travelling with his brother and family including a new born.

“We had just finished our dinner when I heard an explosion. I was listening to music with an earphone but suddenly, heard the sound and saw fire in the left engine,” said Nithin, who was travelling in the business class.

“The economy class was almost full and a lady who witnessed the fire had high blood pressure.

"It was a tense and scary situation and I had flash of thoughts, especially because I don’t know swimming and the captain had lowered the altitude and we could see the ships and boats below in the Arabian Sea,” added Nithin, who said he’d never encountered such a tense moment before.

“My heart was beating very badly because I have seen several plane crash documentaries. I thought it is going to happen in my life too.”

“The captain announced that there was a fire and that he was trying to make an emergency landing in Mumbai with just one engine,” Nithin said.

“When the aircraft successfully landed in Mumbai Airport at 10.30pm, there was a big applause for the timely diversion of the flight by the captain,” he added.

Immediately after landing, firefighters and security encircled the aircraft. Within two hours, passengers were given another flight to reach Sharjah by around 4am. The incident caused delay in other Air India services.

“When we landed in Mumbai, there was another Air India flight ready for us. Thanks to the prompt action of the pilot and the support from Air India, we could reach Sharjah,” added another passenger.