New Delhi: It was neither an erring passenger this time, nor a technical glitch, but a single rodent, which forced the Milan-bound intercontinental flight of Air India to return to India after flying for four hours on Thursday.
According to reports, the rodent problem occurred when AI-123, with almost 200 people on board, was on its way from Delhi to Milan. Two hours into the flight when the Dreamliner was in Pakistan airspace, some passengers and cabin crew members spotted a rat in the cabin.
According to the international aviation rules, an aircraft on which a rat has been spotted has to land at the earliest, hence the crew decided to head back to Delhi. However, in order to do so, the flight had to first jettison a large amount of fuel to be light enough for a safe landing.
"The Delhi-Milan flight on Thursday returned to Delhi due to a suspected rat sighting. Though the presence of the rodent was not confirmed, keeping passenger safety in mind, the aircraft was brought back. AI gives utmost importance to safety. Our engineering team is investigating the incident. However, the aircraft will be fumigated as per procedure." an Air India spokesperson was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
Interestingly, this is not the first incident of its kind. In May-end, an AI aircraft had to be grounded in Leh after some rats were spotted on it.
An aircraft needs to be fumigated after a rodent is sighted to ensure it is eliminated and does not pose a threat to safety by cutting electric wires and sending the systems haywire.
The rodents commonly get on board an aircraft through catering vans.