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Alert AI pilots save 48 passengers

The presence of mind of the two pilots saved the lives of 48 passengers and crew aboard a Guwahati-bound Air India plane on Sunday, after it was noticed that one of the two front wheels of the aircraft was missing as it came in to land.

'During a pre-landing check, the ATC discovered that one of the two front wheels was missing. The pilots were immediately informed and an emergency was declared at Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport,' a source in the Airports Authority of India said.

The ATR flight from Silchar was being commanded by Capt. Urmila Yadav and co-piloted by Capt. Yashu. They kept the aircraft circling for more than two hours over the airport to burn off the fuel while preparations were being made for an emergency landing, the source said.

'In such a situation, the remaining fuel is always burnt off to lighten the aircraft and prevent a fatal accident while landing,' the source said.

Although panic gripped passengers after they came to know about the snag, the plane landed safely and the passengers and crew were evacuated and were safe, an Airport Authority of India (AAI) official said.

The Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi congratulated the pilots over the phone for their courage in landing the and saving precious lives. The aircraft lost its front wheel during take off, a statement issued from the Chief Minister's Office here said.

In New Delhi, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ordered an enquiry into the incident. A team from the eastern headquarters of DGCA at Kolkata has already left for Guwahati, a source said.
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