A SpiceJet Boeing 737-800, with about 200 people on board, had to be returned to Patna after take-off on Sunday after sparks were observed in one of its engines following a bird hit it during the take-off. The flight had to be diverted to Patna and everyone onboard the plane was safe. Notably, the Patna airport is considered one of the country's critical airports when it comes to an emergency landing and is surrounded by trees and a railway line.

SpiceJet, in a statement, said the bird hit was observed by the cockpit crew and the captain of the aircraft, captain Monica Khanna, decided to return to Patna. The post-flight inspection showed the bird hit with 3 fan blades damaged, the company adds.

"On June 19, 2022, SpiceJet B737-800 aircraft was operating SG-723 (Patna-Delhi). On takeoff, during rotation, the cockpit crew suspected a bird hit on the Engine. As a precautionary measure and as per SOP, Captain shut down the affected engine and decided to return to Patna. The aircraft landed safely in Patna and passengers were safely deboarded. Post-flight inspection showed bird hit with 3 fan blades damaged," says a SpiceJet spokesperson.

Reacting to the development, Jet Airways CEO Sanjiv Kapoor tweeted the aircraft did not catch fire, and that it appears to have some foreign object debris ingestion or a bird strike. "The engine exhausted or expelled flames after what appears to be some FOD ingestion or perhaps a bird strike. Incidentally, engines are always on fire... it is called combustion, and that is what generates power and propels the aircraft," he tweets. Kapoor had previously served as COO of SpiceJet.

In yet another incident involving SpiceJet flight on Sunday, a Dash8 Q400 flight from Delhi to Jabalpur also had to be returned to Delhi soon after the take-off as the crew encountered a so-called 'pressurisation snag'.

Meanwhile, the budget career is planning to raise fares by 10-15% in the wake of the rising cost of operations due to high aviation fuel prices and a weak rupee. SpiceJet last week had said the company absorbed the rising cost of fuel in the past few months, despite a 120% rise in its price since June 2021. Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director, SpiceJet, has urged state governments as well as the Centre to cut taxes on aviation turbine fuel (ATF), which in India, he says, are the highest.

“Aviation turbine fuel prices have increased by more than 120% since June 2021. This massive increase is not sustainable and governments, central and state, need to take urgent action to reduce taxes on ATF that are amongst the highest in the world. We have in the last few months tried to absorb as much burden of this fuel price rise, which constitutes more than 50% of our operational cost, as we could," Singh says.

The SpiceJet stock is trading at ₹40.60, 1.70 or 4.02% down, on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) today.

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