It may appear like something out of a seedy horror film, but a section of the aviation community strongly believes that a ghost haunted Mumbai’s domestic airport on the night of July 7 2006.
On that fateful date, a little past midnight, Indian Airlines towing vehicle operator K V Gharse, a foreman and an aircraft technician were towing an A-320 aircraft from the domestic to the international end of Mumbai airport.
Two communication technicians were on board the plane, in the cockpit.
“When the aircraft reached the runway near the fire brigade station, smoke started emanating from the towing vehicle. So the operator stopped the vehicle, climbed down and released the tow bar,’’ says an airport source.
Following a short discussion, the men decided to park the problematic towing vehicle at a safe spot away from the runway before getting another towing vehicle.
“But when Gharse climbed back into the vehicle and started it, he was thrown off his seat with such force that he landed on the runway with a thud,’’ says the source. “After that, the towing vehicle sped off at lightning speed by itself.’’As the men stood watching openmouthed, the vehicle swerved and turned around, rushing towards the aircraft.
“En route, its two front wheels got caught in a gutter along the taxibay and it stopped, but it jumped out of the ditch and hit and damaged the aircraft before coming to a halt,’’ adds the source.
The men ran off and notified the control tower and Indian Airlines officials about the accident. Gharse, who received injuries on his head and hands, was rushed to Nanavati hospital.
The IA general manager for ground support flew in from Delhi the next day to investigate the matter. Gharse was discharged from the hospital this Monday.
While the story given by the five men on duty is being investigated, the IA management has been looking for a scientific explanation and the possibility of human error as well. “It should be noted that the towing vehicle was giving out smoke before the operator climbed in and started it,’’ reasons an IA official.
“Maybe the accelerator went on accidentally, and the operator was thrown off the vehicle due to inertia. The uncontrolled speed could have caused it to swerve and come back towards the aircraft.’’
Whether one favours the rational explanation or the supernatural one, no more untoward incidents have taken place at Mumbai airport since July 7. The spooked aviation staff must be happy about that.