New Delhi / Thiruvananthapuram:
Eighteen people, including the two pilots, were killed after an Air India Express flight from Dubai carrying 190 people skidded off a table runway in the pouring rain and shattered into pieces on Friday night in Kozhikode Airport in Kerala. The plane, a Boeing 737, overshot the runway at 7:41 p.m. and rolled 35 feet down, said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who ordered an investigation.
The pilots aborted two landings due to the downwind and circled the airport several times before the final landing. The region had been hit by torrential rains since Thursday.
“According to the weather radar, the approach was for runway 28, but as the pilots were having difficulty they made two roundabouts and came from the opposite side on runway 10 and the plane crashed,” said ANI news agency quoting an investigator from the Civil Aviation Authority. (DGCA) as said.
The officer stated that the aircraft was at full speed upon landing and passed runway 10. He continued to the edge of the runway and fell into the valley.
Air India Express flight IX-1344 from Dubai to Calicut was operating as part of the Vande Bharat mission to repatriate Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus lockdowns.
Air India Express is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India and has only B737s in its fleet.
There were 184 passengers including 10 babies and 4 cabin crew on board the aircraft. Many of the passengers were workers returning home after losing their jobs due to the pandemic.
A greater tragedy was avoided because the plane did not catch fire after the crash. During the heavy downpour, rescue personnel, including local police, pulled people out. Small children have been found trapped under seats. A few people were trapped for hours before being pulled from the jagged pieces of the plane’s fuselage.
Investigators from DGCA, Aviation Accident Investigation Bureau, CEO of Air India express and other Air India and Air India Express officials traveled to Kozhikode early today to investigate what happened.
A plane from Mumbai took Air India angels and workers to coordinate relief and assistance to affected families.
Help centers have been set up in Sharjah and Dubai.
Some of the injured passengers are in critical condition.
Press Trust of India cited Riyas, one of the rescued passengers. He said the flight circled the airport twice before trying to land. “I was in the backseat. There was a loud noise and I don’t know what happened after that,” he said.
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among those who expressed their grief after the plane crash.
“Saddened by the plane crash in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who have lost their loved ones. May the injured heal as soon as possible,” the Prime Minister tweeted.
Kozhikode Airport, carved into the top of a hill with limited space at the end of the runway, is one of Kerala’s most important international terminals and handles many flights from overseas.
In 2010, an Air India Express flight crashed at Mangaluru International Airport under similar circumstances, killing 158 people.
The flight from Dubai had overstepped the runway and plunged down the cliff into a wooded valley. An investigation revealed that the captain misjudged the height during landing, which led to the flight overshooting the runway on a plateau.
Reports said authorities had not acted on a proposal to install a system at Kozhikode to prevent planes from diving from the edge.