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Spicejet ain’t just an excursion

Piyush 2011-03-05

Mr. Sanjiv Dange is a principal practitioner with Vedzen Institute. An avid traveler himself, this time he flew into a nightmare.

- I had just finished my assignment for the day & travelled to Bengaluru Airport by the Airport Bus Service, a good two & half hour ride on any day.

Past the Check-in & security, the gate display showed a delay of 20 minutes & a brief announcement explained that there was a minor snag. Boarding started around 2115 & we were transported to the parking bay by the airport bus. My boarding pass showed seat 3C & hence I was boarding the aircraft by the front door.

While walking past the nose wheel of the aircraft Spicejet ‘Saffron’, I noticed that there were some people working on the wheel assembly using a bulb suspended on a wire. I did not think much of it at the time. The aircraft took off for Pune, the take-off was slightly rougher than normal.

The flight was without incidence till we arrived over the Pune skies. The pilot announced that we were going to circle the airport & that there was going to be a delay of about ten minutes as there was no ground clearance. To my surprise we did not circle but we did a descent & then a quick ascent the first time. The pilot announced a further delay of ten minutes during which the earlier descent & ascent was repeated. When we came around the third time, the cabin announcement shocked us out of our seats. It declared that there was slight glitch in the nose wheel & that the wheel might collapse on landing, which we were told should not be a cause for worry.  It is super human not to worry when you are in an aircraft where you are about to land & there is a possibility of the nose wheel folding up on touchdown.

We were asked to follow instructions of the cabin crew, to bend our heads & catch our ankles & get into a forced landing position. In other words get ready for an emergency landing. Funny, that with the space cramping style of seat layout, there is no way you can bend your head & catch your knees, without hitting your head against the back of the seat in front. Secondly the cabin crew did not show us any crash landing position, the girls were simply scared. So much for rehearsed safety procedures!

I could hear a few people murmuring prayers in those few disturbing minutes of utter tenseness. The bewildered looks on the faces of most people showed kaleidoscopic expressions, of grief, remorse, bewilderment & utter confusion. I wondered if this & such were moments that ‘Gods’ of all faiths await?

The pilot once again announced ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’, we are going to land in two minutes, be braced. Right enough two minutes later I could hear a series of huge thuds as if the aircraft was doing a hop skip & jump on the tarmac. My heart came up in my mouth & I was quite sure that as soon as the nose wheel touched the runway, it was going to buckle; the cockpit would hit the ground, sparks & then one BIG BOOM!

I shall remain eternally grateful to the pilot for somehow managing to control that nose wheel & bringing us around to the parking bay. All of us out there owed our lives to him & we appreciated by clapping for him. We learnt later that the ground clearance, the pilot awaited was to secure the runways, for fire tenders & ambulances to be in place along the runway to attend to the impending emergency. Everyone out there excepting us passengers (poor suckers) were aware of the impending catastrophe.

The cabin-doors would not open for a while & the baggage-hold doors took a good half an hour. We were told that the doors had jammed with the impact of landing.

That was the end of the saga, but I am not sure I want to fly with ‘Spicejet’ ever again. The aircraft was definitely old with torn seat pockets & a shabby decor. More relevant was, despite being aware of a snag in the nose wheel, the airline went ahead using the same aircraft & risking the lives of passengers including mine’ – this in my books is not acceptable & If this is what is meant by low-cost flying, the lord have mercy on all such fliers!. For those of you who will be reading this account, it is the first-hand experience of the writer, narrated for whatever conclusions you the future fliers may wish to arrive at. Never in all my thirty five years of flying have I come so close to my creator. I am today a born-again individual & obliged for the opportunity to be alive.

Post Script : (2nd March 2011) – Today almost 20 days after the incidence; the management of Spicejet has not seen it fit to apologize to its passengers for causing near death, not even a small note. Let sleeping dogs lie, is the underlined thought!

Like all things in this country ‘Human Life is Cheap’

Sanjiv Dange

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