‘It could only be a case of pilot error’
Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel at Mangalore’s Bajpe airport were horrified on Saturday when the Air India flight from Dubai hit the ground at a distance of nearly 2,000 feet from the touchdown point.india Updated: May 24, 2010 00:51 IST
Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel at Mangalore’s Bajpe airport were horrified on Saturday when the Air India flight from Dubai hit the ground at a distance of nearly 2,000 feet from the touchdown point.
This lapse on their part gave the pilots no opportunity to bring it to a halt before the limits of the runway were reached, a senior Airport Authority of India official said.
The aircraft before landing had disappeared from their view in a matter of seconds and plunged. The 30-month-old Boeing 737-800 plane fell into the 200-foot-deep valley and broke into two before coming to an exploding halt 50 feet from the tracks of the busy Konkan railways.
A portion of the wing hit the equaliser (an erect portion of the instrument landing system) and broke before the plane overshot the runway.
“Everything was perfect — the aircraft, instrument landing system (ILS), the runway. It could only be a case of pilot error,” he said.
Flight pilot Zlatko Eluscia and co-pilot H.S. Ahluwalia were given landing clearance four miles from the touchdown at 6.05 am, when one could for 6 km. The ATC gives the clearance after ensuring the runway is clear and free of other traffic. In a normal landing process, the aircraft aligns with the centre of the runway on the strength of the information provided by the ILS and precision approach path indicator lights. But the pilots seem to have lost control, the officials suspect.
As the plane exploded, an emergency warning was sounded, surprising the airport staff, who were gearing up for the day on a cloudy morning.
“We first thought it was an aviation exercise. Then disbelief set in as chaos ensued,” said Samyukta, an airline employee. The emergency response team rushed to the spot only to find the aircraft had crashed through the perimeter wall and was on fire in the deep valley, where the approach was difficult.