US-bound flight diverted to Russia after engine trouble

A San Francisco-bound Air India plane carrying 216 passengers and 16 crew members was diverted to a port town in Russia on Tuesday after it developed an engine problem.

The AI173 flight developed the glitch mid air and was then diverted “and landed safely at Magadan Airport in Russia”, according to a statement by the Tata Group-owned carrier. The aircraft in question is a Boeing 777.

Magadan is a port town on the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia.

The statement said a relief aircraft will depart from Mumbai at 1pm on Wednesday for Magadan to take stranded Air India passengers to San Francisco.

Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsiya said a reserve Air India plane is scheduled to land early on Wednesday in Russia’s far east to pick up the passengers, Reuters reported.

“The planned landing time is 6.00am Moscow time [0300 GMT] on 7 June,” Rosaviatsia announced on Telegram.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said it is “closely monitoring the situation”.

“We are aware of a US-bound flight that had to make an emergency landing in Russia and are continuing to monitor that situation closely,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told the media.

“I am not able to confirm how many US citizens were aboard the flight at this time,” he said and added that it is “of course likely that there are American citizens on board”.

The airline said in the statement that there is no Air India staff in the remote town of Magadan or in Russia.

“All ground support being provided to the passengers is the best possible in this unusual circumstance through our round-the-clock liaison with the Consulate General of India in Vladivostok, Ministry of External Affairs (Government of India), local ground handlers, and the Russian authorities.”

Videos on social media have appeared about the makeshift arrangements that were made for the passengers. Some said the passengers have been housed in a school with bare minimum facilities.

A 16-year-old passenger stranded in Madagan told the Associated Press that he was travelling on the flight with his uncle and brother.

He claimed authorities barred them from leaving the hostel where they are staying in Magadan and said they are unable to use their credit cards because of the sanctions on Russia over its Ukraine invasion.

“The authorities are extending all cooperation in our effort to ensure that passengers safely reach their destination at the earliest,” the Air India spokesperson said in the statement.