No wide-body planes at Kozhikode airport during monsoon: Aviation regulator
The aviation regulator is also planning to conduct safety audits across airports in regions that receive high rainfall.Updated: Aug 11, 2020 21:46 IST
Wide-body planes during monsoon season have been banned at the Kozhikode airport, announced the aviation regulator on Tuesday evening following the tragedy last week when a plane overshot the runway, broke into two at the very airport and killed 18 people, including the two pilots.
“As a matter of abundant caution we have decided to divert them to neighbouring airports during the monsoon season,” Arun Kumar, DG of the Directorate of Civil Aviation, said.
The aviation regulator is also planning to conduct safety audits across airports in regions that receive high rainfall, he added.
Wide body aircraft like B747 and A350 have a bigger fuel tank and can therefore travel longer distances in comparison to narrow body aircraft like the B737 and A320.
The Boeing 737 jet, on a Vande Bharat mission as flight AIX 1344 from Dubai was bringing in Indians who were stranded abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic, met with an accident while landing at the Kozhikode airport in treacherous conditions last Friday, breaking into two — making it one of the deadliest commercial aviation disasters in the country in nearly 10 years.
The crash occurred as the plane attempted to land amid heavy tailwinds and rain on the table-top runway and bore striking similarity to the 2010 Mangalore airport crash when a plane, also an Air India Express Boeing 737, overshot a tabletop runway and crashed nose-first into the ground.
So-called tabletop airports have limited space at the ends of the runway and several international airlines have stopped flying bigger aircraft into Kozhikode due to safety issues. Wide-body aircraft operations were permitted at this airport from 2019.
Concerns were raised following the 2010 Air India Express crash in Mangalore that killed 158 people on board. That year, a court of enquiry report by a former Indian Air Force chief Air Marshal BN Gokhale noted that tabletop runways require extra skill and caution. The hazard of “undershooting” and “overshooting”, in particular, can lead to grave situations, the report had said.
Kozhikode airport is equipped with Runway End Safety Area (RESA) as per the International Civil Aviation Organization guidelines on safety, aviation minister Hardeep Puri had said on Monday.
“Engineered Material Arrestor System (EMAS) provides safety benefit if less than standard RESA length is available or at Airports where RESA cannot be provided due to constraints. Provision of EMAS is not mandatory in a civil aerodrome as per ICAO guidelines,” Puri said.
“DGCA issued a directive vide letter dated 13.03.2013 on the recommendation of the Court of Inquiry (COI) Report which stated the following fact; AAI to recalculate declared distances to provide 240m (length) of RESA by reducing Landing Distance Available (LDA) appropriately at Safety Critical Airports which can be reduced if a suitably designed Aircraft Decelerating System is provided beyond minimum 90m (length) of RESA,”
Puri had said that the provision of EMAS at Mangalore and Kozhikode were examined by AAI in consultation with the DGCA, following the Air India accident at Mangalore in 2010.
“Tabletop runways at both these Airports are accordingly provided with RESA of 240m & 90m in compliance to DGCA directive. Further, considering the complexities of post installation maintenance & issues related with immediate replacement of product (in case of damage to EMAS) in such a critical safety area of RWY-RESA, it was then felt that the installation/provision of EMAS may not be suitable. Presently a statutory enquiry is on. Experts will further study the situation and causes and make suitable recommendations,” Puri said.
The black boxes have been recovered and their data is being examined.
The civil aviation ministry’s accident investigation division, Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), will conduct a detailed investigation into the crash.