In a bizarre incident, an overhead electric panel in an Air India Airbus on Chennai-Mumbai flight fell off last night, precariously clinging and creating scare among passengers.
The panel came off as the A320 on flight AI 571 took off.
The affected panel, that has overhead reading lamps and switches for alerting the fight crew, was above seat number 2, row DEF while I was on seat 3F.
The air hostesses who were in take off positions were also equally shocked as the passengers. They rushed to the seat as the seat belt sign was switched off and offered another seat in the back rows to the passengers as the hanging panel could hurt them.
The air hostess tried to push the panel back but it wouldn’t get stuck again. Some passengers tried to hold it by inserting a piece of newspaper – like we do in case of old taxi doors – but that too didn’t work.
Then someone suggested to the crew to get hold of an adhesive tape. No passenger would have such a tape since it is banned on flights as it is a potential hijack tool.
Finally, the airhostess found a piece of black adhesive tape and passengers helped her in sticking up the panel.
Our worry that the panel could break off completely and cause short circuit as it has several eclectic wires and to add to the panic was the fact that the flight was rocking due to bad weather conditions.
The incident raised questions on the poor standard of maintenance of aircraft and the passengers in other seats also clicked pictures from their mobile phones.
The airhostess thanked the passengers for showing commonsense and commented “so far, so good” as the flight landed safe at Mumbai.
I also observed that the flush button in the toilet behind the pilot’s cabin was also hanging and when brought this to the crew’s attention all that she said was: “I know the loo is stinking. Thank god, I don’t use it.”
I experienced another scary incident earlier the same day when the overhead baggage bin’s door opened up on a JetKonnect ATR flight from Madurai to Chennai. The flight was taxiing fast and the airhostess was about to finish her safety demonstration. Luckily the huge bag did not fall on the passenger below as the crew member quickly shut the bin.