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Fire grounds Air Deccan

Our Bureau  |  Hyderabad 

'Technical snag' forces cancellation of inaugural flight

The recently launched Air Deccan, a low-cost regional airline, had to cancel its inaugural flight this morning when a fire was detected in the propeller exhaust of the plane just before take-off. Nobody was injured in the incident.

The plane, scheduled to fly from Hyderabad to Vijayawada, had BJP president Venkaiah Naidu, Civil Aviation Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Telugu Desam Parliamentary Party leader Yerran Naidu and a few other political leaders on board.

The 48-seater ATR-42 model aircraft from Airbus, which was to carry 33 passengers including a few journalists, developed the snag following the "accumulation of fuel moisture in the left exhaust".

Terming it as a "mere technical snag and not an accident", Rudy said it was not an uncommon occurrence even in passenger planes.

"Since it is a mere technical snag, there is no need for an inquiry," the minister added.

"If this (accumulation of fuel moisture) happens in mid-air, it does not even cause a fire," Air Deccan Managing Director G R Gopinath said.

The incident would not hamper the operations of the airline and commercial services would begin on Monday as scheduled, Gopinath added.

Air Deccan, which charges 40 per cent less air fare than other domestic airlines, has been operating daily flights for the last one month from Bangalore to Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Belgaum, Mangalore and Hubli.

The airline proposes to cover all the unconnected cities in south India by December, when it will use its fleet of 7 aircraft to operate 75 flights daily.

Addressing a gathering earlier, Gopinath said 30 per cent of Air Deccan's air fare goes to pay duties and taxes, including air travel tax, security duty, landing charges, parking fee and navigation charges.

"No airline survives if fares are high. We have done our bit by reducing the fare by 40 per cent and operating with thin margins. If the Centre brings down the levies, air travel will become more affordable and volumes will go up tremendously," he said.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu appealed to the civil aviation minister and the BJP president to take up the issue with the government.

Stressing the need for an open sky policy, Naidu said: "If you block the flights, you are blocking the development of nation."

On the issue of an open-sky policy, Rudy said, "It is like the issue of World Trade Organisation and every country has to protect its economic interests."

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First Published: Thu, September 25 2003. 00:00 IST