A private jet carrying three top executives of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries made a tense emergency landing at the Mumbai airport on Wednesday afternoon after its left engine failed in mid-air.
The unnamed executives and the crew of Reliance’s Dassault Falcon 900EX aircraft endured anxious moments after the pilot screamed “Mayday” on the radio to the Mumbai Air Traffic Control (ATC) just 14 minutes after taking off at 2.27 pm.
The 19-seater aircraft with the registration sign VT-ISH was destined for Delhi, where a company meeting was scheduled, but it immediately turned back and made a priority landing at the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport around 2.45 pm.
The company had been using the same plane to fly players of its IPL franchise Mumbai Indians, according a source at the airport. In fact, on Wednesday morning it brought players back to Mumbai from Delhi, where they played against Chennai Super Kings at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Tuesday night.
Apart from the French-built Falcon 900EX, which has a flying range of 7,000 km, Reliance Industries owns two larger corporate aircraft: Airbus 319 ($43 million) and Boeing Business Jet ($73 million). Mukesh Ambani usually travels in the Boeing.
Reliance Industries confirmed Wednesday’s emergency landing, but refused to reveal the names of those on board. It was also not clear if the three senior executives were the only passengers on the flight.
“It (the aircraft) encountered an engine problem and the pilot requested for emergency services to be on standby. The flight could have continued its journey with the other engine, but safety is the top priority for Reliance,” said Tushar Pania, head of communications, Reliance Group.
He added that it was a routine flight. While the company appeared to downplay the incident by saying that the flight could have proceeded as per schedule, aviation experts say engine failure is a worst-case scenario for any pilot.
The flight to Delhi had a normal take-off. The Reliance officials were just settling down when the sign of engine failure went off in the cockpit. The Falcon 900EX was still in the Mumbai airspace at the time so the pilot contacted the Mumbai ATC and sought permission for an emergency landing. “The pilot said that an engine had failed and he would have to land immediately,” said a source in the ATC.
R K Khanna, deputy director-general of the aviation regulator DGCA, told Mirror that the Falcon 900EX landed at the Mumbai airport at about 2.45 pm. “We have sent a team of inspectors to determine the cause of the failure,” he said. Sources in the DGCA, meanwhile, said that apart from the mandatory inspection, a full-fledged inquiry had been initiated.