Crashed Air India Express flight had a late touchdown: Official

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

NEW DELHI, Aug 10, 2020, India Today. Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) chief Arun Kumar has said that the the Air India Express flight, that skidded off the runway on Friday evening killing 18 and injuring over 100 on board, had a late touchdown, India Today reported.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Kumar said that according to information provided by Air Traffic Control, the flight was late by over 3,000 feet in a touchdown.

“Actually, if it was 3,000 feet, 4,000 {feet} or 2,000 {feet) — that will come out once everything is decoded… So if you touch down late on any runway, suppose it’s a 12,000 feet runway, and you touchdown at 8,000 feet, then you can have problems,” he said.

The Air India Express flight from Dubai with 190 people on board, including a six-member crew, landed on the centre line of the Runway 28 at the Kozhikode airport, overshot the tabletop runway amid heavy rain, fell into a valley 35 feet below and broke into two, killing 18 people, including both pilots.

ATC at 7:37 pm on Aug 7 cleared the aircraft to land on Runway 10. The aircraft was also routed through the instrument landing system, which helps a pilot to align the aircraft to the centre of the runway while landing and glide at the right altitude.

The pilots, however, landed much after the touchdown zone. The aircraft was supposed to land at around 300 meters from the start of the runway. Air India Express Boeing 737-800 aircraft, however, landed about 900 meters down the start of the runway at high speed.

At around 925 feet above the surface of the runway, the aircraft was at 176 knots, as per Flightradar24.

The DGCA chief further said that fortunately, the aircraft did not skid over 10 feet ahead otherwise the impact would have been greater.

“Fortunately for us, it has not gone far beyond, just 10 feet ahead. With the impact, it has broken into three parts. It could have gone even further, it could have been worse,” he told Hindustan Times.

However, he continued to maintain that the real facts will only be revealed once the investigation has been carried out by the Air Accidents Investigating Branch (AIIB).

On reports that the crash resulted because the runway was short in length, Kumar said, “It’s not a small runway, for example like Patna which is just 6,000 feet. It is a Code D runway and this is a Code C aircraft and the grading is like B, C, D where D is bigger to C. This runway was fit enough for bigger aircraft, so a smaller type of aircraft cannot complain of the length of the runway. ”

The Friday crash has also put tabletop runways under the lens with calls to do away with them to avert such tragedies in the future. On this, Kumar said, “You don’t do away with tabletop runways. There are tabletop runways across the world.You design flight procedures to navigate your aircraft on these runways. These are very well prescribed and defined procedures.”

Some experts had warned the DGCA in 2011 saying that Kozhikode airport is ‘tailor-made’ for disaster. On this, Arun Kumar told Hindustan Times, “All the recommendations that were in the inquiry committee report from that time have been complied with and after that the airport has been functioning for the last 14 years. In 2006, it was only a 6,000 feet runway, now it is 9,000 feet after acquisition of land and then it was declared an international airport.” He added that most of the recommendations given by experts were incorporated.

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