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The international gateway to the Maldives is the Velana International Airport (MLE) near the capital city of Male. In order to handle larger aircraft and more frequent flights, the airport is building a longer runway parallel to its existing 10,500-foot one. Construction has been ongoing for years, and while it’s nearing completion, the new runway isn’t operational quite yet. Construction work was still very much in process when I transited the Maldives last month:

Image taken by the author on August 7, 2018 on takeoff from MLE.
Image taken by the author on August 7, 2018 while taxiing at MLE.

Unfortunately, a couple of Air India pilots didn’t get the message that the new runway wasn’t open yet. On Friday, Air India flight 263 from Trivandrum, India (TRV) to Male landed on the incomplete runway. Thankfully, all 136 passengers and 7 crew on board survived the incident without injury.

The aircraft involved in the incident was an Airbus A320neo with registration VT-EXL — an aircraft which had just been delivered new to Air India in December 2017. According to sources on the ground, the aircraft received serious damage to its landing gear:

Video posted on Twitter show the aircraft trying in vain to move from the not-yet-operational runway:

From FlightRadar24 logs, the aircraft was towed to a maintenance section of the airport about an hour after landing on the wrong runway:

Performing a major repair to an aircraft in the remote islands of the Maldives isn’t likely to be an easy or cheap fix. No word yet of any disciplinary action taken against the pilots for the error. A new A320neo goes for about $110 million at Airbus list prices.

Featured image by AliShinaan via Twitter

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