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Kozhikode Plane Crash Analysis

Air India flight 1344 was scheduled to travel on 7th August 2020 from Dubai to Kozhikode. The flight was a part of the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indian nationals abandoned because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The flight crew made two aborted landing attempts because of heavy rain and tailwind. On the third landing attempt, the aircraft touched down on runway 10, but skidded off the end of the runway and fell into a 9–10.5 m (30–35 ft) gorge, killing 16 passengers and both pilots. The four-cabin crew members and 168 passengers survived, of whom over 100 were injured.

The runway condition:

•Kozhikode airport was opened back in 1988

•Length of the runway during the opening was 1,830 meters.

•Number of daily flights, at the time of opening, was 45 (now 10).

•Surface Wind on August 7 was 8 knots

The Kozhikode table-top runway-

Tabletop runways are for the most part built by cleaving off the most elevated of a slope and are regularly thought of as precarious for arrivals because of the deficiency of any edge for overshooting the runway. As per pilots, arriving on tabletop runways requires exactness approach with next to zero space for mistakes.

What is RESA?

•The Runway End Safety Area is the surface surrounding the runway that helps reduce the risk of damage to an aircraft in the event of an undershoot or overshoot from the runway

What happened on August 7 at Kozhikode Airport?

•Pilot Deepak V Sathe and co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar try to land the jet on runway number 28 but fail.

•It is raining, but visibility is 2,000 meters.

•Plane circles the airport a number of times.

•7.41 pm: The plane approaches from the sea-side and lands on runway 10.

•Actual touchdown marker is around 1,000 ft from the start of the 2,860-metre runway (about 300 meters).

•But the plane touches down at near mid-point (about 1,500 meters).

•Soon after the crash, fire tenders circle the area and spray foam to form a protective carpet around the flight as fuel is leaking.

•8.00 pm onwards: Passengers come out through the broken part of the aircraft before the rescue operations begin.

•11.45 pm: Rescue operations complete when all the trapped passengers are taken out from the mangled remains of the aircraft.

Investigation

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), and Flight Safety Departments are investigating the accident. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were recovered the next day and sent to Delhi for analysis. Boeing is probably going to send its investigation team to look at the debris of the aircraft for defects and assist the probe. The AAIB team in Kozhikode is probing the incident with the assistance of the Airports Authority of India officials, air traffic control, ground staff, CISF, the fire team, and the rescue team.

It has found evidence of waterlogging of the runway at the time of landing. It is also checking whether ATC was aware of waterlogging and whether the pilots adhered to rules. The preliminary investigation report was expected to be ready in a week after the accident. Another five-member committee was set up by AAIB on 13 August, to investigate the incident. It will be headed by Captain S.S. Chahar, formerly designated examiner on Boeing 737 Next Generation. The final report will be submitted in five months. The committee will also provide recommendations to avoid such accidents in the future.

Initial findings suggest that at the time of landing, the tailwind was around 9 knots (17 km/h). The aircraft was at 176 knots (326 km/h) at an altitude of roughly 450 feet (140 m) above the surface of runway 10, which isn’t considered ideal for short finals during poor weather conditions. The throttle was found to be in a fully forward position (takeoff or go-around position) and the spoilers were retracted from the position of the speed brake lever, which indicates that the pilots might have tried for a go-around.

The tailwind, rubber deposits, and wet runway affecting the braking performance of the aircraft are thought to be contributory factors to the accident. Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Puri, in a press conference at Kozhikode on 8 August, said that there had been sufficient fuel onboard for the aircraft to have flown to a diversion airport. The possibility of pilot error, as a cause of the accident, was suggested by DGCA’s Arun Kumar.

Compensation

The Government of India and Kerala, each announced an interim relief of 10 lakh (US$14,000) compensation for the families of the deceased above the age of 12 years, 5 lakh (US$7,000) for below the age of 12 years, 2 lakh (US$2,800) for seriously injured and 50,000 (US$700) for those who sustained minor injuries. It was also announced that the medical expenses of the injured would be borne by the state government.

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