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Jet crashes on approach to Indian airport; 91 killed

NEW DELHI - An Indian Airlines Airbus jet that had been in use only three months crashed short of a runway in southern India Wednesday, killing 91 people, officials said. The Airbus-320 grazed a clump of trees on its final approach to Bangalore airport and caught fire when it hit the ground about 50 yards from the runway.

The flight originated in Bombay, 530 miles northwest of Bangalore.

There were 139 passengers and seven crew aboard the flight; at least 55 survived, including two Americans, the airline said.

The plane's tail was intact but its fuselage was shattered and charred and the nose was smashed across the grassy plain adjacent to the airport.

There was no immediate indication of what caused the accident, which occurred about 1 p.m. Airport officials in Bangalore said the weather was clear, and there were no indications of an emergency on board.

The aircraft was among a fleet of 14 Airbus-320s purchased by Indian Airlines last year from Airbus Industrie, the European consortium that manufactures the plane.

The jet that crashed entered the fleet in December and had flown from Bombay to the nearby city of Goa and back earlier Wednesday, the airline said.

It was the first crash of an Airbus-320 in regular commercial service. An Airbus-320 carrying passengers crashed June 26, 1988, at an air show in eastern France, killing three people and injuring 50. The plane was on a demonstration flight and flew too low and slowly over an airfield, hitting some trees.

The Airbus-320 is the first civilian airliner with a fully computerized flight system, which manufacturers say allows for safer operation.

Aviation Minister Arif Mohammed Khan flew to Bangalore to inspect the crash site and ordered an inquiry into the accident, the second-worst in the history of Indian Airlines.

The crash is the latest in a series of mishaps that has earned Indian Airlines the reputation of being one of the worst-managed air carriers in the world.