Civil aviation expert’s 2011 warning about ‘unsafe’ KIA runway fell on DGCA’s deaf ears
Civil aviation expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan believes that the pilot of Air India Express Boeing 737 — a coronavirus disease (Covid-19) evacuation flight from Dubai — should have diverted to Coimbatore, as the conditions in Kozhikode International Airport (KIA), Kerala, were not conducive for a landing because of a downpour and had also warned the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) authorities in 2011 that the runaway is unsafe and needed to be reevaluated, especially in wet conditions.
“The visibility was fine,” said Captain Ranganathan. “However, it was not prudent to land at the KIA because of the downpour,” he added.
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Captain Ranganthan, an aviation safety consultant and a former instructor pilot of the Boeing-737 specialising in wet runway operations, said he was surprised that the DGCA authorities gave permission to the flight to land at the KIA.
“The KIA runway is not safe,” said Captain Ranganathan. “Not much has changed since I was there last. Fortunately, a Boeing-737 was landing and not a wide-body aircraft,” he said.
Earlier, he had warned the DGCA authorities in 2011 that the KIA runway was unsafe for landing and needed to be reevaluated.
“It is a dangerous situation, especially in wet conditions. KIA runway 10 approaches should not be permitted in view of the lack of RESA (runway end safety areas) and the terrain beyond the end of the runway,” Captain Ranganathan had said in his report.
He had suggested that a 240-metre (m) RESA should immediately be introduced and the runway length should be reduced to make flight operations safe.
“There should 150 m on either side to avoid aviation disasters,” Captain Ranganathan told HT. “But there is not sufficient area there. It has always been dangerous,” he added.
He had cautioned DGCA authorities after Air India Express Flight 812 from Dubai had crashed in Mangaluru on May 22, 2010, killing 158 people on board.
The KIA has a tabletop runaway similar to that of Mangaluru International Airport (MIA).
The flight with 190 passengers on board overshot the KIA tabletop runway and dropped about 35 feet into a gorge on Friday evening. Officials had said 18 people, including the pilot Captain Deepak Vasant Sathe and the co-pilot, have died in the accident and over 140 more are injured, some of them seriously.
The images from the KIA showed the aircraft split into two pieces.