On short runway charge, Puri says all issues raised in the past have been addressed
The Director-General of Civil Aviation has commenced the enquiry into the crash landing of the Air India Express Flight IX13444 from Dubai at Karipur on Friday night, said Union Civil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Saturday at Kozhikode.
The disaster at Kozhikode airport claimed the lives of 18 persons, including the pilot and co-pilot, of the ill-fated Boeing 737 aircraft, said the Minister while addressing the media.
“As many as 149 passengers are undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts. 23 persons who had minor injuries were discharged after treatment,” said the Minister.
Except for the pilot and co-pilot, all those who lost their lives were from Kozhikode, Malappuram, and Palakkadu districts of Kerala.
Minister Puri flew down to Kozhikode on Saturday to take stock of the situation and held meetings with the officials of the airport, DGCA and Air India before he met the media. He said a major disaster could be averted because of the instant search and rescue actions initiated by all concerned at the airport.
“The Black Box and the Flight Data Recorder have been retrieved and we have to wait till the probe is on. I request you all not to speculate on anything. What I could say right now is that the aircraft overshot the runway and fell down from a height of 30 ft. The causalities could be restricted only because of the search and rescue mission which commenced within minutes and that too in an exemplary manner,” said Puri.
On the reduced length of the runway in Kozhikode airport, the Minister said all issues which were raised in the past had been addressed.
The Kozhikode airport has a tabletop runway, which refers to one located on the top of a plateau or hill with one or both ends adjacent to a steep elevation that drops into a deep gorge. Several international airlines had decided not to fly big aircrafts including Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 jets into Kozhikode citing safety issues over the length on the runway.
Of the four airports in Kerala, the Kozhikode airport has the shortest runway and has suffered massive damage due to incessant rains in the pa
“Deepak Sathe, who was the captain of the Air India Express flight was one of the most distinguished and experienced commanders of Air India. He had more than 10,000 hours of flying experience and had landed in Kozhikode airport 27 times in the past. He has flown many aircraft including Mig-21 and was well versed in all kind of aircraft. His deputy, Captain Akhilesh Kumar (32) too was an equally competent pilot with more than 1,723 hours of flying,” said the Minister.
Puri declined to be drawn into any controversy regarding the operational capability of the crew or the aircraft. He repeatedly asked the journalists to wait till the probe was over the report is submitted to the Government.
He announced a solatium of Rs 10 lakh to each of the deceased, Rs 2 lakh to each of the injured and Rs 50,000 to each of those who suffered minor injuries.
The Minister also disclosed that the Vande Bharat flights (of which the Air India’s ill-fated aircraft was a part) have ferried more than one million passengers from foreign countries to India since the services began on May 6. This is the first accident involving a Vande Bharat flight and we are all distressed and dejected by the mishap,” said the Minister.
It may be a strange coincidence that Capt Akhilesh was the first pilot to command a Vande Bharat flight to Kozhikode airport. Friday’s flight turned out to be his last one too.
While the Minister said that all the issues which were raised in the past about the length of the runway had been addressed, aviation experts have all along been cagey about the safety concerns about the runway.
In fact, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had issued a show-cause notice to the director of the Kozhikode airport on July 11 last year after it found “various critical safety lapses” in different places, including the runway and the apron. The DGCA had conducted the inspection after an Air India Express flight coming from Dammam in Saudi Arabia had a “tail strike” while landing at the Calicut (Kozhikode) airport on July 2 last year.
According to officials, after the July 2 incident last year, the DGCA inspected the airport on July 4 and July 5 and found various critical safety lapses. On July 11, Kozhikode airport director K Srinivasa Rao was issued a show-cause notice, stated another DGCA official. In a statement on Saturday evening, the DGCA said, “Based on the above findings, a show-cause notice was issued to the airport director at Calicut for non-compliance and advised to take immediate action on findings.”
“Airport Director, Calicut sent a compliance report on August 5, 2019. After the examination of the compliance report, all the major findings were closed,” the DGCA noted.
Sunday, 09 August 2020 | Kumar Chellaappan/PNS | Kochi/New Delhi
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