Air India flight with 190 onboard skids off runway in Kozhikode, both pilots among 19 dead

Rescue operations at Kozhikode airport (Photo Credits: PTI). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, Aug 7, 2020, India Today. Aflight skidded off the runway at the Kozhikode (Calicut) International airport in Kerala, also known as the Karipur airport on Friday evening. The plane was an Air India Express aircraft part of India’s “Vande Bharat” repatriation initiative to bring back expatriates from foreign countries, India Today reported.

Nineteen, including former Indian Air Force (IAF) test pilot Captain DV Sathe and his co-pilot, have died while the injured are being treated at the MIMS hospital and Baby Memorial hospital in Calicut.

At least 170 of those onboard the flight, including passengers and cabin crew, have been rescued, DGCA DG Arun Kumar said. Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed that the evacuation process is complete. CISF personnel who were the first responders along with NDRF managed to rescue a woman and a child alive during the final search of the plane’s wreckage.

A helpline (0565463903) has been set up for families of passengers of IX-1344. President of the Indian Association in Sharjah EP Johnson has also launched a similar helpline number. He said, “Those in need can call us on the following numbers: 050 – 3675770, 050 4828472, and 050 6266546.”

What happened at Kozhikode airport?

Preliminary inputs indicate that the fuselage broke into two after the aircraft overshot the runway at Karipur airport. The aircraft has been identified as AXB1344, B737 Dubai (DXB) to Calicut (CCJ), an Air India Express flight from Dubai to Kozhikode.

A missed approach was carried out first followed by a second attempt to land the aircraft when it overshot the runway. The aircraft’s actual speed was higher than the landing speed. (Read Details Here)

The Air India Express plane overshot the runway at Kozhikode International Airport in Kerala around 7.41 pm. It has been confirmed that the aircraft did not catch fire. The airport in Kozhikode had been receiving incessant rainfall. (SEE VISUALS HERE)

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued a statement saying, “Air India Express IX 1344 Dubai to Calicut, visibility 2000 meter, heavy rain, after landing Runway 10, continue running to the end of the runway and fell down in the valley and broke down into two pieces.”

Air India Express also issued a statement saying, “We regret that there has been an incident regarding our aircraft VT GHK, operating IX 1344 DXB CCJ. Due to crash landing of the flight, it may affect the network but Vande Bharat Mission continues.”

The flight plan along with information about AXB1344, B737 Dubai (DXB) to Calicut (CCJ)
Additional DG (Media) at the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Rajeev Jain was quoted as saying, “Passengers are being taken to hospital for medical care.”

Kerala Director General of Police (DGP) Loknath Behra had told India Today, “All hands on deck. We are still trying to get more information. The flight was from Dubai to Calicut. Priority is evacuation, safety and treatment of passengers on board.”

Emergency response, rescue operation

All agencies were instructed by the Kerala CMO to participate in the rescue operations. AC Moideen, minister for local bodies was deputed to coordinate rescue operations. He was on his way to Karipur from Thrissur at the time of this report being published. CM Vijayan had also deputed an IG of police to oversee the operation. Fire and Rescue teams from at least two districts have been rushed to the spot.

“There were children who were separated from their families. We are trying to get in touch with their relatives,” Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja had said earlier on Friday.

Two teams of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), one from Malappuram and another from Wayanad have arrived at the airport in Kerala’s Kozhikode. These teams comprise 60 NDRF personnel equipped with first aid and electrical equipment.

Sources in Air India say a relief aircraft is on standby from Delhi to Mumbai and is waiting for the weather to clear up.

PM, President take stock of situation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke to Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and took stock of the situation. CM Vijayan told PM Modi that a team of officials including Kozhikode and Malappuram District Collectors and IG Ashok Yadav have arrived at the airport and participating in the rescue operation.

President Ram Nath Kovind also spoke to Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan over the incident.

In a tweet on Friday, former Union Minister KJ Alphons had confirmed news of the plane skidding off the runway. Alphons wrote, “Second tragedy of the day in Kerala : Air India Express skids off the runway at Kozhikode, front portion splits, pilot dies and lots of passengers injured. All passengers evacuated. Very lucky the aircraft didn’t catch fire.”

Indian Envoy to the UAE, Ambassador Pavan Kapoor also said in a tweet, “Distressed to learn of this accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the passengers and their families.”

Minister of State (MoS) for the MEA V Muraleedharan said, “Deeply anguished to hear about the mishap in Calicut airport involving the flight from Dubai to Calicut. Was informed that the plane overshot the runway and seemingly nosedived.”

Former Congress president and sitting Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad in Kerala, Rahul Gandhi also expressed condolences following the tragic event. He said in a tweet, “Air India flight with 190 onboard skids off runway in Kozhikode, both pilots among 19 dead.”

Among one of the first international leaders to condole the Kerala crash was Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who also sent out a tweet in this regard on Friday.

An order has been issued to the Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) to initiate a probe into the incident. The order comes barely an hour after an urgent meeting of the Civil Aviation Ministry was held at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan in New Delhi. Among those present at the meeting were the DGCA Director-General, officials of the civil aviation ministry, Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Air India Express.

Two different teams of investigators comprising experts from AAI and AAIB will leave for Kozhikode in Kerala at 2 am and 5 am respectively.

In an exclusive interview with India Today, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said, “Weather conditions being what they are, I’m told aircraft couldn’t be brought to a halt. As a tabletop airport, it imposes a challenge. There was a 30 flat feet drop to the ground below. Fortunately. the plane that broke into two from fuselage did not catch fire.”

(With inputs from Pooja Shali, Kamaljit Singh, Poulomi Saha)

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