Pilots explain what poses the challenge in wake of the Kozhikode crash
The most obvious challenge of a tabletop runway, a commercial pilot said, is the fact that on a normal runway if you run out of runway, you would still be on the ground. “On a tabletop runway, you may find yourself on the ground several hundred feet below,” he said.Updated: Aug 09, 2020 04:45 IST
Pilots on Saturday underscored the challenges posed by tabletop runways in the wake of the deadly Kozhikode crash, explaining why they can be tricky.
The most obvious challenge of a tabletop runway, a commercial pilot said, is the fact that on a normal runway if you run out of runway, you would still be on the ground. “On a tabletop runway, you may find yourself on the ground several hundred feet below,” he said.
A second pilot, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said tabletop runways, located on plateaus or hills, can also create optical illusions for pilots when they move from the instruments to the visual segment of the flight especially during bad weather. “It can be tricky as the pilot may get the illusion of not being on the correct flight profile. Add-ons like heavy rain, wet runway, and pilot fatigue can complicate things further.”
Several international airlines stopped flying bigger aircraft to Kozhikode due to safety issues given the length of its runway as tabletop airports have limited space at their ends. But pilots flying smaller aircraft are not immune to the hazards either. “The runway is at a height, which is higher than the surrounding areas and the weather conditions also differ. Sudden changes in wind pattern on approach is a common phenomenon which a pilot has to tackle. On an approach till such time you hit the table-top, you may be under the influence of some winds which vary suddenly when you reach the table making the approach management that much more difficult,” said a third pilot, who did not wish to be named.
Possible variation in instrument reading when the transition on the table-top happens is another key challenge. “For example, the radio altimeter, which calls out the height of the aircraft, may call out 500 feet and a second later may call out 100 feet because you have entered the table zone. This transition to the table-top is also when the winds may change which at times becomes a little tricky to manage,” the third pilot said. The degree of difficulty increases multifold during the monsoons, the pilot added.