Kozhikode Airport mishap: Disasters waiting to happen due to negligence.

In the midst of the Corona virus crisis, a plane crash occurred in Kerala late Friday evening, which shook everyone.

Air India Express aircraft carrying 190 people from Dubai under the Vande Bharat Mission skidded on runway at Karipur Airport in Kozhikode while landing and after slipping, the aircraft fell into a ditch about 50 feet deep in the valley adjacent to the airport and broke into two. In this incident, 20 people including the pilot of the aircraft have died, while many passengers have been injured.

Actually, the Air India Express plane fell into the ditch after it slipped on the runway during the landing amid heavy rains on Friday, after which the aircraft was split into two parts, killing 20 people on board.

Police and Airlines officials said the dead included Chief Pilot Captain Deepak Sathe (he was the wing commander in the Indian Air Force earlier) and his co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar. Sathe. Air India Express said in a statement released at midnight, “Unfortunately the pilots have died and in this hour of grief we are in touch with their families.”

The Ministry of Civil Aviation said that flight number IX 1344 operated from Dubai by B737 slipped on the runway at Kozhikode at 7.41 pm on Friday. ‘There is no news of a fire at the time of landing.’ The ministry said, the aircraft had 184 passengers, including 10 newborns, two pilots and four crew members.

Rias, a rescued passenger, stated that the aircraft circled the airport twice in the air before landing. He told a TV channel, ‘I was in the back seat. There was a loud voice and I do not know what happened after that. Another passenger, Fatima, said that the aircraft came down with great force and moved forward.

The DGCA statement stated that the aircraft did not stop after landing on the runway-10 and broke into two after reaching the end of the runway and falling into the ditch. (Air India Express has only B737 aircrafts in its fleet.)

History of tabletop airports:

In 2010, officials demanded a 12,000 feet extension of the Kozhikode airstrip but were overruled by the airport director.

In 2011, DGCA listed Kozhikode as one of the 11 airports “that posed a safety risk to flight operations in the country.”

In 2012, an RTI application found that it continued to be “dangerous”. In 2012 Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC) warned that another disaster, the kind we saw in 2010 when Air India Express Flight overran the runway and caught fire at
Mangalore killing 158, is “imminent”.

Patna is another such dangerous airport but when DGCA asked AAI to stop Boeing and Airbus flights Nitish Kumar wrote to Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh. “As per a news item in a local newspaper, it appears that AAI has decided to implement the
revised declared (reduced) distance from August 16, 2012. This will considerably reduce aircraft operations from Patna, causing great inconvenience to everyone.”

In 2018, the length of the Calicut tabletop runway was further reduced from 2,850 metres to 2,700 metres after some renovation.

Disaster waiting to happen:

In March 2018, DGCA ignored a proposal for using the Engineered Materials Arresting System, EMAS technology to ensure the safety of the Calicut airport’s table top runway. EMAS allows halting of the plane if it overshoots the runway. 100 have been installed all around the world including Tibet. The airport director said: “How can we bear the cost of 100 crore for an imported technology?”

In July 2019, there was a mishap at Kozhikode airport – an Air India Express flight coming from Dammam had a tail strike while landing. Following this, the DGCA issued show-cause notice to the airport. The assessment was damning. critical areas were not being maintained as per the safety standards. Excessive rubber deposit and Water stagnation of 1.5 metre length was observed, in addition to A steep downward slope of approximately five feet depth immediately after the apron, critical parts of aerodrome required to conduct safe operations was not being maintained. The “digital MET display
(Distant Indication Wind Equipment) installed for runway 10 was unserviceable. Cracks were found at aircraft stand number 5. A portion of the apron surface measuring 111 m was also found damaged. And yesterday, the awful disaster that took the lives of 20 people. India is ranked below Pakistan and Bangladesh in Air-safety by the ICA0, and among Indian carriers, debt-ridden Air India ranks the worst. Indian passengers are at the mercy of flying coffins and landing graveyards.

The disaster killing 20 persons on Friday was waiting to happen. The pilot knew it. He exhausted fuel and switched off engine before landing so that there would be no fire. It saved lives but some had to sacrifice their life. Would those in charge of this airport take notice and shut it down in bad weather? That is the least they can do if they can not implement the safety measures suggested from time to time. Will they?

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