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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
VIPs safe after Indian airline fire
The Air Deccan plane in Hyderabad
The engine caught fire as the plane taxied for take-off
Dignitaries including the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had a lucky escape on Wednesday when the inaugural flight of a new route by budget airline Air Deccan caught fire on the runway in Hyderabad.

BJP president Venkaiah Naidu, the civil aviation minister Pratap Singh Rudy and other VIPs were evacuated through emergency exits at the southern city's Begumpet airport.

Sparks and smoke were seen from the left engine as the plane taxied to the runway and the flight was aborted.

The flight was the first by the new budget carrier from Hyderabad to Vijaywada, 300 kilometres to the east, reviving an air route last flown about 18 years ago.

Additional Commissioner of Police AK Khan told the BBC's Omer Farooq in Hyderabad that airport ground staff managed to put out the fire.

Mr Khan said the director general of civil aviation would conduct an inquiry into the cause of the accident.

There were 33 passengers on the aircraft.

Budget launch

Parliamentary leader of the Telugu Desam Party, Yerrannaidu, who was on the plane, told the Times on India it could have been disastrous had the incident occurred after take-off.

BJP president Venkaiah Naidu
Mr Naidu was among those evacuated through emergency exits

Air Deccan said the incident was unfortunate but not unusual and that the aircraft was put through a complete check before take-off with everything found to be normal.

Air Deccan was launched in Bangalore last month with the aim of making air travel feasible for all.

It said its tickets would cost 50% less than other Indian airlines.

The new airline aims to run 75 flights each day by November.

The company, which is part of helicopter charter specialists Deccan Aviation, has a fleet of six 48-seater ATR aircraft from France.

Mr Rudy, the civil aviation minister, welcomed the launch of the service, saying: "The days of flying being a symbol of only maharajas or the rich are over."

Deccan Aviation managing director Captain GR Gopinath said: "My dream is to make it a global company."


SEE ALSO:
India gets first budget airline
25 Aug 03  |  Business


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