Biman’s DC-10 with 215 aboard skids off runway

A Bangladesh Biman aircraft from Dubai narrowly escaped massive loss of lives of its passengers and crew yesterday morning while landing at the Chittagong airport as it skidded off the runway after it was forced to make a belly-landing due to technical faults in the plane’s wheels and propeller.

All the 201 passengers and 14 crew on board came out safely from the aircraft after the plane skidded off and barged on the grassy land some 12 feet off the runway at around 8:40am. However, five passengers, including a six-year old baby, sustained minor injuries.

The airport officials said the plane could not land on time due to inclement weather and was hovering over the Chittagong city.

The Dhaka-bound Biman Bangladesh Airlines DC-10 aircraft developed mechanical faults just before landing for a stopover at the Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport when one of its wings caught fire, sources said. Two of its right-side wheels also broke up at the time, said the passengers and witnesses.

Later, sensing the technical fault, pilot Captain Selim prepared for the emergency landing to avert a grave danger.

The aircraft nose-dived and skidded off about 2000 feet soon after it touched the ground before stopping some 12 feet away from the runway, a Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) report said. The officials and witnesses said six wheels, the front-right wing and the engine of the aircraft were damaged extensively in the accident.

Some of the airport and security officials who witnessed the accident said they saw fire on a right-side propeller of the aircraft before it landed.

The fire also spread to the right wing and landing wheels of the aircraft and one of the landing wheels reportedly fell off before the landing, the witnesses said.

Two passengers–Osman Gani and Abdul Hamid of Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar–said they heard a sound of explosion in the rear and saw fire on the aircraft’s wing just before the landing.

“All the passengers started praying–that’s all I can remember,” said Osman. “I can’t say what happened later or how we escaped death,” he added.

The pilot activated the emergency exits and all the passengers and crewmembers disembarked safely, said an airport security officer.

BSS added that fire-fighting units from nearby Air Force base rushed to the spot and doused the fire within 15 minutes. The Civil Aviation Authority sought help from the Air Force, army and Chittagong Port authority to rescue the aircraft, sources said.

Meanwhile, flight operations to and from the Chittagong airport were suspended immediately after the accident.

The airport authorities said work was going on to remove the damaged aircraft and facilitate resuming of flight operation, which was unlikely before late afternoon today.

The five passengers injured during the landing and emergency evacuation are Salimullah, Osman Gani, Kabir Hossain, Abdul Hamid and his six-year old child.

The child, who was held by its mother on her lap, was hurt in the head when one of the plane’s landing gears broke off on touching the ground giving a hard jerk. The baby went unconscious for a while but later regained and was safe.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasir Uddin flew to Chittagong and visited the spot in the afternoon yesterday.

He, however, refused to make any comment on the accident before an investigation into it.

The state minister said a five-member inquiry committee headed by Habibullah Khan, Bangladesh Biman’s flight safety director, was formed to probe the accident.

A team of technical experts from Dhaka also arrived at Chittagong and was examining the extent of damage to the aircraft and trying to find the reason behind the accident, sources said.

Intermittent rainfall accompanied by gusty winds for the last three days in Chittagong have turned the flight operations at the Chittagong airport dangerous and risky, the BSS report said.

Passengers from the greater Chittagong region already left the airport for their homes while the authority was making arrangement to send the Dhaka-bound 30 passengers to their destination by buses, airport authorities said.
The Daily Star


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