What Had Happened?
On Sunday, Chandrashekhar Singh, Patna's District Magistrate (DM) said, "The Delhi-bound flight had taken off at 12:10 pm. The fire was reported on its left wing soon after. The district and airport officials were informed by the locals who had noticed the fire."
The DM informed that all 185 passengers had been safely deboarded.
The Director of Patna airport told news agency ANI that an alternate flight was being by the airlines. "This incident is a matter of investigation," he added.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said that the wing was hit by a bird and one engine shut down in the air which caused the incident.
SpiceJet On The Incident
The cockpit did not indicate an engine fire and it was only the people on ground and the Air Traffic Control (ATC) that noticed it, Captain Gurcharan Arora, Chief of Flight Operations, SpiceJet told NDTV.
Referring to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), Captain Arora further said that the pilots usually announce a 'pan-pan' which indicates to the world that something is wrong. They then run through a checklist, he added.
"And step by step, you shut down the suspect engine and then you land ASAP (As Soon As Practical) at the nearest airport," he said.
According to him, that is what the pilots did in this case.
Bird hits are a regular feature across various airplanes, the official said. But unlike Sunday's incident, bird hits happen in the airframe which "results in a small thud and no damage to the engine". However, on Sunday, the bird directly hit the engine.
"It resulted in smoke and flames. There was no indication in the cockpits which is a testimony to how rugged the engines are. They were running absolutely smoothly," he said.
Arora also lauded the pilots for handling the situation well, speaking to ANI.
"Engineers inspected the aircraft, it was confirmed that fan blade and engine were damaged as a bird hit it. DGCA will probe further," Arora said.
SpiceJet's Official Statement
Soon after the incident on Sunday, SpiceJet in a statement said, "On takeoff, during rotation, cockpit crew suspected bird hit on Engine number 1. As a precautionary measure and as per SOP, Captain shutdown the affected engine and decided to return to Patna."
"Post flight inspection shows bird hit with 3 fan blades damaged," the airline tweeted.
'Felt Tremors, Raised an Alarm: Passengers
Some passengers had reported feeling tremors within the plane shortly after takeoff, according to PTI.
“We raised an alarm. The crew members asked us to keep calm and informed us that an emergency landing was being made," a passenger told the agency.
Fire engines were dispatched to the runway where the emergency landing was made, however, the flames had been brought under control by that time.
A video of the Boeing 737-800 aircraft emitting smoke was shared by various users on twitter.
Priyanka Chaturvedi, a Shiv Sena MP, took to Twitter shortly after the report was released to say that this was "playing with the lives of people".
“Repeatedly been raising this with the minister, with the aviation secretary. Don’t know when they will rise to the occasion and avoid a major mishap waiting to happen,” she tweeted.
India has earlier witnessed three cases of engine failures in aircraft in the last two months. The aircrafts involved were two Airbus SE A320neo planes, operated by Air India, and a Boeing Co 737 Max, operated by SpiceJet.
The engines involved in all three incidents were owned by CFM, which is a joint venture between GE and Safran SA.
On 20 May, an Air India flight from Mumbai to Bengaluru had to return to Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport just 27 minutes after taking off due to one of its engines shutting down mid-flight due to a technical malfunction.
(With inputs from ANI and NDTV.)