Preliminary information suggests that Air India's Boeing 747-400 overshot the airstrip in Mumbai by a few feet as the pilot did not brake hard to avoid skidding, but the secondary runway is absolutely safe for operations, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said on Saturday.
"Preliminary reports suggest that the pilot did not apply full brakes to avoid skidding on the wet runway. He had estimated that the plane would come to a stop before the end of the runway. It did so, but the nosewheel went out of the runway by a few feet," he told reporters in New Delhi.
Maintaining that air traffic would come back to normal at the airport by afternoon, Patel added that reports that the plane had skidded off the runway by 300 ft were absolutely incorrect. "All passengers are safe. The aircraft is okay, but it has to be physically tested," the minister said.
Asserting that the secondary runway was completely safe, Patel said although it was a little shorter than the main runway, it had all the equipment required for safe landing.
The main runway had been opened for outgoing flights on Saturday and it would become operational for landing too in a couple of days, he said.
Patel said the Air India pilot was a senior executive pilot who had decided not to apply hard brakes, which could have increased the chances of skidding when torrential rains were on.
Meanwhile, the passengers of the Air India plane from Bangalore would be sent to their respective destinations by other flights in a few hours, Patel said.
The secondary runway had taken the load of 500 flights since operations resumed at the Mumbai airport on Thursday afternoon, he said. "The secondary runway is always used when the main runway is not available," he said.
Replying to questions on the recent flooding of the airport, Patel said as the runways were submerged due to the heavy rains, the highly-sophisticated electronic instrument landing system and navigational aids were under water and
"Since these are very sensitive equipment, these have to be fully tested before they can be used," he said, adding that work on this direction was already on.