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Bhoja Air employees sit behind computers in a ticket booth at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. - File Photo by Reuters

KARACHI: Thousands of passengers were stranded for about eight hours when the Jinnah International Airport was closed after a tyre of a private airliner burst during landing on Sunday. The plane blocked the main runway and all departing flights were delayed and the incoming flights were diverted to other airports.

In another incident, a flight of the same airline, Shaheen Air, carrying 120 passengers from Lahore to the Iranian city of Mashhad, was stopped at the last moment when oil was found leaking from its tanks.

The Karachi airport which was closed at 12.16 pm resumed operation at around 8 in the evening.

A large number of flights scheduled to leave the airport in the afternoon were delayed and incoming flights were diverted to Nawabshah, Multan and the Indian city of Ahmedabad. Flights from the Gulf returned to their ports of origin.

Federal Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat and PIA chief Rao Qamar Suleman were stranded at Nawabshah airport for some time after their flight was diverted there.

The Shaheen Air flight NL 122 from Islamabad was carrying 160 passengers and six crew. Its left rear tyre burst and the landing gear was damaged.

Passengers appeared relieved when they came out of the terminal. They are reported to have said that they had heard a loud blast after the aircraft landed and saw flames as the wing and engine dragged along the runway after the tyre burst. Fuel also began leaking from the aircraft.

According to them, fire-tenders arrived about 20 minutes after the rough landing. When fire-fighters saw the leaking fuel they put foam on it to avert any risk. The passengers left the aircraft through stairs and not the emergency chutes as is done in emergencies.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s spokesman Pervez George said all emergency standard operating procedures (SOPs) had been adopted and fire-tenders had rushed to the aircraft soon after its landing.

Talking to Dawn, Shaheen Air’s spokesman Farooq Nasir said the company had purchased the B737 – 400 aircraft from the United States a few months ago. It had been manufactured in 1998.

He said this was the first time that the aircraft had a tyre burst, though earlier it had briefly skidded a few times.

He sad that CAA’s Director General Nadeem Yusufzai had ordered an inquiry into the incident and urged PIA to help remove the faulty aircraft from the runway.

Three incidents involving aircraft in three days, after Friday’s devastating crash near Islamabad, have raised doubts about the performance of private airlines and efficiency of the CAA which is responsible for ensuring safety of air operations.

Fuel leak hits flight

A Mashhad-bound flight of Shaheen Air was cancelled on Sunday after detection of a fuel leak from its tank, our Staff Reporter in Lahore adds.

According to officials, flight 742 had been cleared by its engineering staff for take-off at 2pm when the ground staff reported the leakage.

The Civil Aviation Authority told the airline that it would not clear the flight till the removal of the fault. A source in the CAA said the authority might ground the plane.

The airline’s administration said the fuel leaked because the plane’s tank was overfilled. It said the flight would now depart on Monday and 88 of over 120 passengers had been taken to a hotel.

Our Correspondent in Nawabshah adds: Two aircraft made unscheduled landing at the Nawabshah airport because of the closure of the Karachi airport. PIA flight 303 carrying 271 passengers from Lahore and Airblue flight 201 with 218 passengers from Islamabad landed here. Both the flights later left for Karachi.