Saturday, August 08, 2020

Air India Express crash: This safety instrument could have prevented Kozhikode tragedy

Engineered Material Arresting System is also called an arrester bed. It's a bed of engineered material laid out at the end of the runway, that helps arrest and bring to halt an aircraft that has overrun.

In May 2010, an EMAS could have helped Air India Express flight IX812, landing at Mangalore airport, from rolling down the runway and burst into flames. Of 166 passengers and crew, only eight survived.

This was the first accident involving Air India Express, a unit of India's flag carrier Air India.

Just a little over 10 years later, in similar circumstances, another Air India Express flight - IX1344, overshot the runway in Kozhikode airport, slid down the slope and split into two. The latest official statements say 18 have died, including the two pilots.

An EMAS could have prevented the aircraft from sliding down and could have saved lives at the Kozhikode airport, which like the one in Mangalore, is a table-top and rests on a hill.

The Kozhikode airport could have got one, if the authorities had listened to the recommendations given by a safety advisory committee set up by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, after the 2010 crash.

"We had pushed for it. But that hasn't happened, either in Mangalore or Kozhikode," Mohan Ranganathan, who was one of the members of the advisory committee, told Moneycontrol.

That a similar accident has happened 10 years apart could be a telling comment on the safety standards of the country's aviation industry. "It is the failure of the system," says Yeshwant Shenoy, a lawyer and aviation safety activist. "Just marking the airport as critical or risky is not enough," adds Shenoy, pointing to DGCA's 2011 listing of 11 risky airports in India that included the one in Kozhikode too.

"Many of these measures, also highlighted by International Civil Aviation Organization, are recommendations. But when it comes to a table-top airport, these should be made mandatory," adds Ranganathan.

A table-top runway sits on a hill, with one or both sides dropping to deep gorge. These runways can create an optical illusion to the pilots, making their job risky.
08/08/20 Prince Mathews Thomas/
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