Thursday, September 10, 2020

Air India Express crash: A year earlier, an Etihad flight's narrow escape at Kozhikode airport was a wake up call

Was the narrow escape of Etihad's flight EY250, which was flying from Abu Dhabi, in Kozhikode airport in June 2019- just over a year before the Air India Express crash in August - a wake up call that was missed?
Safety experts think so.
"Following the incident, the airline had highlighted its concern to Kozhikode airport authority regarding the infrastructure limitations. These limitations had been identified as contributory to the incident," says Amit Singh, an industry veteran and safety expert.
The concerns, says Singh, were not addressed.
One of the limitations that was highlighted by the investigation by UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority was the absence of centreline lights on runway 28 at the Kozhikode airport.
Singh, a pilot, explains the importance of these lights:
"Runway lights are on the edges of the runway and the nose wheel of the aircraft has to be in between, on the centerline. This ensures that the main wheels which are under the wings are clear of the edges. If the nose wheel is not on the centerline then one main wheel will be close to the edge.
"At night the centerline markings are not visible from a distance especially when it’s raining or poor visibility. Lights help the pilot. Basically the pilot has to keep himself on top of the centreline. DGCA CAR mandates installation of centerline light and there was a previous surveillance report too. But the lights were not installed."
CAR stands for Civil Aviation Regulations, laid down by the regulator, DGCA.
The presence of these lights could have helped the pilots of the Air India Express flight better navigate the aircraft as it landed amid harsh conditions.
Even as safety experts pour over the Etihad flight incident, the AAIB - or Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau - continues with its inquiry into the August 07 tragedy. Air India Express flight IX1344, had overshot the runway in Kozhikode airport, slid down the slope and split into two. Eighteen passengers and two pilots lost their lives.
10/09/20 Prince Mathews Thomas/
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