What more are we waiting for to stop using our Table-Top Airports?

It was on May 22, 2010, when the country witnessed one of its worst aviation disasters, when an Air India Express flight from Dubai to Mangalore crashed while landing at the Mangalore airport at 6:05 am. A Boeing 737-800, the aircraft, with 166 people on board, overshot the runway and crashed into the valley before bursting into flames. The crash killed 158 people and left just eight survivors. And this was a tragedy on a table top airport.

The Court of Inquiry submitted its report that the cause of this accident was the Captain’s failure to discontinue the unstabilized approach despite three calls from the First Officer to ‘go around’ and warnings from the enhanced ground proximity warning system.

Additional factors included the Captain’s prolonged sleep during flight, which could have led to sleep inertia and impaired judgment, and the aircraft being given descent clearance closer to the airport than normal due to the unserviceability of the Mangalore Area Control Radar. The flight crew did not plan the descent properly and was high on approach, the report concluded.

The pilot-in-command, Z Glucia was an experienced pilot with 10,000 hours of flying experience and had 19 landings at the Mangalore airport. Co-pilot S S Ahluwalia with 3000 hours of flying experience had as many as 66 landings at this airport. But unfortunately, both the pilot and co-pilot did not survive to testify or explain what went wrong. The file was closed both in government quarters and in the short-term Indian memory.

Yesterday, the Aircraft IX 1344 was flying from Dubai to Kozhikode, was bringing back Indians stuck abroad during the coronavirus pandemic and was a part of the Vande Bharat Mission. The incident occurred at the Karipur International Airport when the aircraft overshot the runway and plunged 30 feet during the landing procedure. The front portion of the aircraft crashed and carrier split into two parts. Reports state that so far, 17 people have died in the incident, while 138 are injured in the crash.

The aircraft, a Boeing 737, broke in two. The deceased include the flight commander, Deepak V Sathe, and co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar. Captain Vasant Sathe who lost his life in the tragic Kozhikode Air Crash yesterday, was an ex-Indian Airforce Pilot. His brother was martyred in the Kargil War. His Father was Army Brigadier who fought the 1971 Bangladesh war.

Yesterday’s mishap was perhaps a repeat of the Mangalore crash incident and the only saving grace was that the plane, though divided into two pieces due to the impact of the crash, did not catch fire. This ultimately resulted in lesser loss to human life than the 2010 Mangalore air crash.

Dubai-based aviation consultant Mark Martin said that while it was too early to determine the cause of the crash, annual monsoon conditions appeared to be a factor.

“Low visibility, wet runway, low cloud base, all leading to very poor braking action is what looks like led to where we are at the moment with this crash,” Martin said, calling for the European Aviation Safety Agency and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to assist with the Indian government’s investigation.

(Indian PSU: All about Indian Public Sector Undertakings. Follow @IndianPSUs for all the News & Views on PSUs, Corporates, Markets, Bureaucracy, Public Policy)

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