The incident of an Air India flight scraping the runway at touchdown on Monday is likely to be the result of pilot error, according to a preliminary probe by the aviation safety regulator.
The assessment stems from two major observations recorded by a team of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) officials that began the probe on Monday.
Officials said the Airbus A319 aircraft that is used to operate the flight carrying 121 passengers from Ahmedabad to Mumbai has the least chance of a tail-hit because it is one of the smallest planes in the Airbus family.
“As the possibility of the tail touching the runway is minimal, the manufacturer does not provide protective gear “tailskid” on these planes,” said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity.
He said other Airbus aircraft such as A321 are fitted with a gear to protect the tail.
Secondly, officials noted that the aircraft landed on the main runway, which rarely has a tailwind problem.
As tailwinds push a landing flight from behind, it makes touchdown difficult.
“In Mumbai, flights usually landing on the secondary runway have to fight tailwinds because the airstrip witnesses winds at 15 to 20 knots. But this particular flight landed on the main runway,” said an air traffic control (ATC) official requesting anonymity.
DGCA officials said they would scrutinise the pilots’ training records during the course of investigation. Both pilots were suspended pending an inquiry soon after the incident.