No major damages were found in Bhutan Airlines’ aircraft B3 700 that has been ferried to Bangkok, Thailand for repairs after the aircraft’s tail section emitted smoke on September 9, according to airlines officials.

The aircraft was about to take off for Bangkok from the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata when it learnt about the smoke from the APU (auxiliary power unit) area of the tail section.

The airlines’ general manager (Commercial), Ugyen Tenzin, said that there has been no change in regular flight schedules.

He also said that the media reports of passengers being injured are untrue. “All passengers were safely evacuated,” he said.

The company’s CEO, Phala Dorji, said that it might take until September 14 to make the aircraft operational. “No severe damages have been caused although engineers are inspecting the aircraft,” he said. “If the damages were severe, the aircraft wouldn’t have taken off to Bangkok from Kolkata.”

The CEO said that the engineers are assessing if the emergency slides have to be replaced. He said that some passengers suffered minor bruises during the course of evacuation. “But they cannot be treated as injurious. No one had to be hospitalised,” he added.

According to a press release from the airlines, the incident occurred a little less than an hour after the aircraft landed at the airport. There were 61 passengers on board.

The captain after starting both the engines had shutdown APU as per the standard operating procedure (SOP), and was requesting ATC (air traffic control) to taxi off when he received a call about the smoke from a pilot on Indigo aircraft VT-INS.

The press release stated that the captain immediately checked his flight deck for any signs, warnings or alert messages for fire on board. No indications of fire were seen in the cockpit through the warning system.

“As he (the captain) had no visuals of the tails’ section from the cockpit, he was unable to judge the gravity of the situation, but having been alerted of the smoke coming out of the tail section, he had no choice but to make the quickest decision – to evacuate all the passengers,” the airlines stated. He immediately evacuated the passengers by deploying the emergency slides and safely evacuated all the passengers and seven crewmembers.

According to the airlines, none of the passengers sustained any injuries. The stranded passengers in Kolkata were boarded on a relief aircraft that arrived from Paro and the flight took off for Bangkok after a delay of almost six hours.

The smoke, which was seen to be coming out of the tail section of the aircraft, soon dissipated. An inspection report is awaited.

The aircraft was thoroughly inspected by the company’s flight engineer, according to the press release. No major damages were found and the aircraft was ferried to Bangkok to reinstall emergency slides.

The airlines stated that the aircraft would not carry any passengers without emergency slides installed in it.

“It is to be noted that the crew exercised quick presence of mind to react and respond to such a situation, which was noteworthy as it was most professionally executed,” the airlines stated. “The captain’s decision taken in such a situation following a designed SOP is primarily for the safety of the passengers and the crew, which has always been of paramount importance to Bhutan Airlines’ B3 operation.”

MB Subba