Missing the mark demarcated for a safe touchdown is common among Indian pilots.
Airfield sources in Mumbai airport claim at least 20 per cent flights landing at the country’s second busiest airport touchdown beyond the touchdown markings.
“It is common on most airstrips,” said a senior ATC official requesting anonymity. “Air safety audits have ignored the concern because very few airfields are tricky such as the table-top airstrip in Mangalore.”
The commander of the Air India Express flight that crashed at Mangalore airport, killing 158 people on board on Saturday, landed 2,000 feet beyond the touchdown point.
ATC sources claim that the violation is common among pilots with three private airlines (two budget carriers and a full service operator) in particular.
“Most of their flights land close to the area where both the runways intersect about 300 metres from the touchdown mark,” the ATC official added.
According to the civil aviation ministry records, these three airlines together cater to about 30 per cent of domestic air traffic in the country.
Aviation experts claim that pilots do it for flair.
“Pilots miss the touchdown markings for the flair of a smooth landing,” said aviation expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan.
“But that requires a better speed control. At high speed, you are bound to miss the mark.”
He added that more fatal runway overruns such as the Mangalore crash should teach us a lesson.
Worse, a thrust–reverser an effective control to stop an aircraft from overshooting is hardly used in India. Because the aircraft guzzles a big gulp of expensive aviation turbine fuel every time the rescue device is used. Experts feel that the device could be effective back-up option in situations such as the Mangalore landing.
Despite several attempts directorate general of civil aviation Nasim Zaidi was not available for comment.