Monday, September 14, 2020

Kerala Plane Crash: Safety Experts Demand Preliminary Probe Report Be Made Public

A Boeing 737 aircraft, carrying 191 passengers had skidded off a tabletop runway and fallen into a gorge more than a month ago on August 7 at Calicut International Airport. Twenty-one passengers, including the two pilots onboard, lost their lives.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) investigation norms mandates a preliminary probe report to be prepared and shared with it within 30 days of the date of the accident.

“Preliminary reports may be marked as confidential or remain public at the investigating state’s discretion,” the ICAO’s Annexure 13, which deals with accident investigation, says. Aviation experts want the report to be made public. They argue that transparency promotes safety culture and awareness of threats.

“Countries like Indonesia, Ethiopia and Pakistan have released preliminary reports to the public and the information contained in the report has generated tremendous public response and assured that a comprehensive final report will benefit all the stakeholders,” Amit Singh, an aviation expert and a pilot, said. Singh alleged that when he wrote to Aurobindo Handa, DG, Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), Handa refused to even acknowledge that whether the AAIB has submitted the report to ICAO or not.

“Instead of answering the specific question on the status of the investigation report, the DG replied in general and said that as a matter of settled practice, AAIB sends preliminary investigation reports for all accident and incidents,” Singh said. Handa didn’t respond to Outlook’s email.

The initial probe report gives basic factual and circumstantial information on an accident. Usually, it takes two to four weeks to prepare post the accident. SS Panesar, a retired pilot and air safety expert, says that every probe report is crucial but in the Kerala plane crash case there are many unusual aspects.

“The first and foremost is that the pilot-in-command captain Deepak V. Sathe was a decorated fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force. He was a test pilot as well. It is quite intriguing to know why he didn’t move to another airport after his initial attempts to land failed due to bad weather,” Panesar said.

He added, “What did they discuss in the cockpit? What did he tell the Air Traffic Controller? Every flier is entitled to know as this concerns air safety. The government should not cover-up the system’s failure by blaming the pilots.”
14/09/20 Jeevan Prakash Sharma/Outlook

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