Air India Flight 676, bound from Kolkata to Mumbai, was forced to land at Nagpur on Saturday, July 22 due to its fuel running low. As reported by Times of India, Air India has grounded the two pilots who did not pull back the landing gear of the aircraft after the take off from Kolkata all the way till Nagpur. The flight was headed to Mumbai but had to halt at Nagpur. The pilots realised that they had been flying the aircraft with the wheels out only when they prepared to land at Nagpur, TOI reported.
Flying an aircraft with the wheels out means flying low and also results in more utilisation of fuel. The aircraft AI 676 had 99 passengers on board on Saturday. TOI reported quoting a source, “After take off, both the pilots forgot to retract the landing gear. As a result, the brand new Airbus A-320 continued to ascend at a very low climb rate. The plane finally gave up climbing after reaching an altitude of 24,000 feet as the extended landing gear meant very heavy drag. It then levelled out and flew at 230 knots for the next 1.5 hours.”
Since the aircraft was flying at a very low range compared to the optimal level in the sky that an aircraft is supposed to fly within, it resulted in the immense burning of the fuel due to the extra dragging. By the time the Airbus A-320 reached Nagpur, it went low on fuel and both the pilots decided to divert the plane to the Nagpur airport as it would not have been possible to reach Mumbai in that much fuel, reported Times of India.
TOI quoted the AI spokesperson, Dhananjay Kumar, who said, “The pilots were de-rostered after the incident was reported.” He said that the airline is probing further into the case. According to TOI, the two pilots are equally surprised that none of the cabin crew members or the passengers complained about the noise and vibrations made by the aircraft due to flying at such a low altitude.