On Saturday, 8th July, At 7:40 pm Air India Express Boeing 737 aircraft crashed on the Kozhikode International Airport. Coming from Dubai with 190 people aboard, the plane skidded off the runway due to heavy rain and went down a 35-meter deep slope. The Air India airplane broke into two pieces on impact, fortunately, it did not catch fire. The tragic accidents took the lives of 18 people in the Kerala plane crash including the pilot and the co-pilot. However, the crash could have been easily prevented if warnings regarding safety issues were taken seriously. There are several reasons that tell how Kozhikode Plane Crash is not an unpredicted accident rather a priory known potential fatal aircraft crash.

The dangers of the Kozhikode runway were already known

Kozhikode Plane Crash

Almost 10 years ago, in a letter to the chairman of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC) and civil aviation secretary, mentioning the potential fatalities of Runway 10. Kozhikode airport is not suitable for landings of heavy aircraft in tailwind conditions. This letter was written by a member of a safety advisory committee constituted by the civil aviation ministry.

Despite the warnings of the safety advisory committee, the Kozhikode runway was still in use. The safety issues were ignored and landings were allowed on runway 10. It shows how the lives of passengers were in danger.

Avoiding safety issues with Kozhikode runway

Kozhikode Plane Crash

The following are the reasons why Kozhikode runway is unsafe for aircraft landings:

  • Runway 10 has space constrictions and require more safety features.
  • At the end of the runway, there is a 70-meter drop and if the plane overshot or gets off the runway there is no chance of escaping a crash.
  • Runway 10 does not possess the minimum Runway End Safety Area (RESA).
  • The length of the runway is only half of the required minimum width laid down in ICAO Annex 14. In prior safety inspection and assessments, this fact was highlighted and already known by the DGCA. However, for some reason, no safety measures were taken neither any restrictions were laid down regarding commercial Air landings.

In a report by Air marshal BN Gokhale, it is clearly mentioned there are more risks of overshooting and undershooting on tabletop airports such as the Kozhikode Runway. These risks can lead to the possibility of accidents.

To be able to land on a tabletop runway the pilot needs to have extra skills and take precautions while carrying out landings and other operations. Several international aircraft stopped landing on the Runway 10 due to safety issues however Indian commercial flights were not restricted.

Repeating history- The 2010 Air India Express crash in Mangalore

There are several similarities between the 2010 Mangalore plane crash and the 2020 Kozhikode plane crash.

Air India Express flight crashed on the Mangalore Runway the flight also overshot in tailwind conditions due to heavy rainfall, Mangalore Airport is also a tabletop runway. The flight plunged from the 100-meter drop at the end of the runway. After the massive 2010 Mangalore Aircraft accidents, safety issues were raised concerning tabletop runways and other safety issues. Despite the failures and mistakes of the past, no serious actions were taken.

Critical Airfield, Pilot error

There are several runways in India which are classified as critical airfields. there are 11 such critical airfields in India, which are Mangalore, Kozhikode, and Lengpui. Additionally, airfields namely Patna, Port Blair, etc also classified as ‘critical airfields’. These are tabletop runway, length of these runways are short and these require special caution and skills during air operations. Pilots require to take extra training and tests to be cleared and the only Pilot in command can carry out landing in these tabletop runways.

It is quite obvious the weather was an influential factor in the Kerela plane crash however pilot error was also mentioned as well as the aircraft’s safety systems. Investigations are still in progress and flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder, and other devices are procured.

Kozhikode Plane Crash-Warnings for the future

If lessons are not learned from the Mangalore and Kozhikode air crash, such accidents would take place again in another tabletop, critical runways. Runway such as Patna airport is a critical airfield. Pilot and crew required to take different tests and assessments to be able to land there. Various safety measures are needed to be taken into consideration.

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Anubhav Kumar Das

Anubhav Kumar Das

Anubhav is the owner of Forever Pieces. He is a published author and poet. He is a part-time freelance writer and maybe found strumming the guitar for gigs on festive weekends. Besides all these, he is also an exhibited artist and photographer.

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