A preliminary investigation report regarding a Kingfisher aircraft skidding off the runway at the Mumbai airport on November 10 points to pilot error in calculating the flight’s point of descent.
The directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) preliminary report states that the senior pilot misjudged the landing of the flight on the shortened runway. The exact height of descent is not yet clear but investigators have made the claim on the basis of the video footage captured in the stationary camera set up on the sides of the runway.
“It is clear from footage that the flight was too high and considering the low visibility on the rain-soaked day it is possible that the pilot goofed up the landing,” said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity.
The pilot had also been warned by the air traffic control to exercise caution as the runway was wet, the official added.
DGCA chief Nasim Zaidi neither confirmed nor denied the finding. “The probe is on,” he said. Kingfisher refused to comment on the matter.
The DGCA had asked the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) to record footage of flight movement right from the point of descent to touchdown on the shortened runway.
Initially the wet runway seemed to be the cause of the near mishap that put 46 lives at risk.
Investigators now feel that the cause of the mishap could be lack of training to pilots for operating on a shortened runway. Air safety experts had warned earlier that pilots could struggle to adjust to a runway half its normal length.
“Even a minor fluctuation in tailwind (wind in direction of the course of the craft) or visibility could lead to major adjustments for the pilot,” said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an air safety expert.
The safety concern was evident even in the GoAir case on November 3 when the commander, a trainer with the airline, aborted landing twice and nearly rammed into the runway construction site.
This prompted the regulator to issue a safety notification saying only trainers and co-pilots with 300 hours of flying experience are permitted to operate flights on the curtailed runway.