The private aircraft which claimed the life of five people after it crashed in Mumbai's Ghatkopar area on Thursday afternoon was not fit for flying as it did not have a certificate of airworthiness, a senior official of the company which owned the plane has said.
The Beechcraft King Air C90 model aircraft, which took off from the Juhu airstrip on a test run, crashed near an under-construction building in Mumbai's Ghatkopar while trying to make an emergency landing, police said.
The plane was carrying two pilots, Capt Maria Kuber and Capt Pradeep Rajput and two technicians Surabhi and Manish Pandey, all of whom died in the crash. Surabhi who was an engineer was more than two months pregnant, according to news agency IANS.
A pedestrian who came under the debris of the flight was also charred to death, a DGCA official told PTI. Bodies of those killed were taken to the Rajawadi hospital in Ghatkopar, an official said. Two labourers at the construction site were also injured in the mishap but were reported to be stable.
But the disaster could have been worse had the four dozen labourers working at the building hadn't stepped out for lunch just minutes before the crash took place around 1.15 pm, NDTV reported.
The black box of the flight was recovered and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has ordered a detailed probe into the crash, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said. According to The Times of India's report, the pilots gave out no distress message or “Mayday” call to Mumbai airport’s air traffic controller before meeting the fateful end.
The 12-seater aircraft was earlier owned by the Uttar Pradesh government and had met with an accident in Allahabad in 2014. It was then sold —after three unsuccessful auctions— to a Pune-based company which then sold it to a private company, UY Aviation, Uttar Pradesh Principal Secretary, Information, Avinish Awasthi said.
The flight had been in operation for the last 22 years and according to the company, the pilot and co-pilot had adequate flying experience. As per a report by The Indian Express, UY aviations had spent close to Rs 8 crore in maintaining and purchasing new parts for the aircraft.
Anil Chauhan, head of operations, UY Aviation, said the aircraft was in “the hangar of a maintenance company, Indamer, for over a year and a half, undergoing major repairs and must have last flown about six years ago’’. "The pilot and the co-pilot were our employees and both had great flying experience. The pilot had flown over 5,000 hours while the co-pilot used to fly with Jet Airways before. The engineers were from Indamer Aviation Limited. The flight was with Indamer for maintenance and we took it on a test flight on Thursday as we were to start operations soon. The flight was in the air for an hour and was just about to land at Juhu when the accident occurred," Chauhan said.
"Though we have ownership of the aircraft, it was under the care of Indamer company. The aircraft was not yet handed over to us, it did not have a certificate of airworthiness,’’Chauhan added, according to the report.
“We were on the street when we saw a burning plane falling. It all happened so suddenly. Within seconds the plane crashed and was engulfed in smoke. We heard three blasts one after the other," eyewitnesses told The Times of India.
A resident of a nearby apartment complex told NDTV, "We are used to planes flying overhead. We thought there was an explosion at the construction site. Only later we realized that a plane had crashed." "The plane crashed through the boundary wall of the under-construction building and burst into flames leaving behind a strong smell of aviation fuel over the area. The Aircraft's engines, propellers and landing gear were completely burnt before the fire brigade could reach the spot", the report stated.
A fire brigade official said, "Our control room got a call at 1.15 pm informing us about a plane crash. Our jawans were immediately rushed at the site to launch the rescue operation. Four fire engines and as many water tankers were rushed to douse the fire that occurred after the plane crashed." Reportedly, it took over an hour to put out the fire.
"We were having lunch when we heard the first explosion. We immediately rushed out... saw a burning body near the crash spot. We tried to save the man but the flames had engulfed him completely so we found ourselves helpless," a local resident said recounting the horror.
Meanwhile, Capt Maria's husband P Kuthariya told NDTV that he had texed his wife to ask if she has landed and then came across the news of the crash on television. "They crashed before they could complete emergency landing. Maria and Capt. Rajput have given their lives for kids and people of Mumbai, they prevented the plane from crashing into a school," he was reported as saying.
Talking about the developments leading to the incident, P Kuthariya said his wife had initially told him that the flight had been put off. "The test flight was aborted on Wednesday as the runway was filled with water. It was to be aborted again on Thursday due to bad weather. The flight could have been avoided. Haste, if any, was wrong. Lives could have been saved," he remarked.According to the NDTV report, the family is yet to hear from the management of UY aviations.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the site of the crash. "The reasons behind the mishap and names of those responsible for it should come out in open. Civil aviation minister has already ordered a probe into the incident. Compensation will be awarded to the victims of the crash as per norms," he told reporters.
Updated Date: Jun 29, 2018 09:26:30 IST