The scenes of chaos and human body parts strewn at the Mangalore air crash site on Saturday, which left around 160 dead, revived the memories of the Patna crash 10 years ago —the last big aviation tragedy in the country.
It was a sunny morning on July 17, 2000. A loud explosion that left the earth shaking for several minutes woke people in the thickly populated Gardanibagh locality near the airport.
Panic hit as soon as they realised that a huge aircraft had crashed into a row of government flats in the area.
The debris of an Alliance Air Boeing craft were strewn all over and passengers — their body broken and twisted — cried for help.
Fifty-five persons on board – including three of a family – died when the aged aircraft, flying from Kolkata, missed the runway and landed atop a building, killing five locals on the ground.
Air Marshal P. Raj Kumar, who investigated the crash, concluded that the accident occurred due to a major piloting error. He said the pilots tried to make a 360-degree turn while maintaining high altitude, leading to loss of control over the aircraft.
What’s more, the crash exposed many shortcomings of the Patna
airport, particularly its proximity to the zoo and residential areas. Besides, the airport has a short runway and is still not considered feasible for landings of bigger aircraft such as Boeings 737s.
Air Marshal Kumar also recommended re-location of the airport, expansion of the existing runway and other safety procedures, including better training of pilots and advanced air traffic control set-up. But most of the recommendations have still not been implemented.