Never underestimate a tiny rat. A 100-odd passengers who took Air India's Aurangabad-Mumbai flight on Saturday evening will agree hands down. For, it was a little rat on board that delayed their flight by over two hours, upsetting their schedules terribly.
The rodent was first noticed by state minister Nitin Raut around 5.30pm just as the flight was picking up momentum. It scampered over Raut's feet. Raut looked down to find the rodent ducking for cover, as it were.
The minister, who holds a pilot's licence, was quick to alert the cabin crew and the pilot, said sources. When dna tried to contact him for his comment, his phone was not reachable.
A rat, or any such creature on board, can pose serious threat to safety of a flight. It is for this reason that the civil aviation authority – Directorate General of Civil Aviation – forbids any littering on board or anywhere around the airport.
Staffers at Aurangabad's Chikkalthana airport were quick to swing into action. The plane was brought back to the hangar. Air India sources said that it was decided to abort the flight.
"Passengers were deplaned. A thorough search began to locate the rodent," said a spokesperson of Air India. "The flight was delayed by at least two hours."
Work began at a frenetic pace. Passengers' baggage and other cargo were pulled out, said an airline source. "Rats can prove dangerous as they can destroy the wiring system of an aircraft and leave a catastrophic effect mid-flight," said this source who spoke strictly on the condition that he not be named. In keeping with protocol, the aviation regulator was informed about the pest on board.
The task was pretty much like looking for a needle in a haystack. With no sign of the tiny rat for far too long, the last resort was to smoke the rat out. "The plane was fumigated," said an airport source. As curls of smoke filled the aisles, out jumped the rat, running helter-skelter and scurrying onto the open runway and yonder.
For Air India's staff the woes hadn't ended yet. They had to bear the brunt of agitated passengers who complained of the delay and about missing connecting flights from Mumbai. All this, thanks to a tiny little rat.