RAWALPINDI: Airport authorities panicked on Friday when a passenger boarding bridge connected to a plane got stuck, leading to delays in the flight’s departure from Islamabad International Airport (IIA).

A boarding bridge connected to Serene Air flight ER-503 to Karachi had 188 passengers and crew members on board and was ready to be pushed back for departure at around 4.30pm when the boarding bridge got stuck because its electric motor malfunctioned.

Airport sources said that despite the bridge operator’s efforts, it could not be detached from the plane, leading to concern among the authorities and the airline’s management. Through the efforts of ground staff, the airplane was manually pushed back from the tarmac so it could take off after a 30-minute delay.

They said senior judges were among the passengers on board when the bridge malfunctioned, but all the passengers had taken their seats and the doors were closed.

“The front wheels of the aircraft were turned manually to push the aircraft away from the boarding bridge,” a senior official said, adding that this bridge had already been showing some problems.

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said the boarding bridge got stuck because of a technical fault, after which the aircraft was manually pushed back for take-off at about 5:15pm.

The spokesperson added that an investigation will be conducted into the incident to ascertain why the bridge malfunctioned.

All of the passenger boarding bridges at IIA – nine international and five domestic – have been inspected and re-examined since one collapsed last October.

Boarding bridge no. 5 – an enclosed elevated passageway that extended from the airport terminal gate to the aircraft – collapsed moments after it was disconnected from a Gulf Airways flight that had begun taxiing. The bridge operator and a CAA official were critically injured, and another worker was slightly injured, in the incident.

A four-member board of inquiry was formed shortly after to investigate the incident. After examining the wreckage of the collapsed bridge, the board had decided to carry out a full inspection of all the bridges to avoid any such incidents in the future.

One international airline, operating from Dubai, had stopped using passenger boarding bridges entirely after the collapse, while others continued to use them with safety concerns.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2019