Monday, September 13, 2021

Calicut crash shows why infants at risk

Mumbai: The Air India Express Kozhikode accident has brought to the fore a long-ignored issue — the safety of infants onboard flights.

The Air India Express aircraft had hurtled towards the end of the tabletop runway from where it dropped into a deep gorge, crashed into the airport perimeter wall and broke into three.

During the eventful landing, ten infants sat on the laps of their parents.

Their only safety net, their parent’s arm grip. Three out of them died, another three had serious injuries.

The accident, that occurred in August last year, has highlighted the need for a ‘child safety restraint system’, the kind advocated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and in use in countries like the US. A child restraint system (CRS) is a contraption of belts that a parent can fasten onto the seat back, through which the passenger seat belt can be pulled in to secure an infant safely onto the seat.

But for this, the parent would need to buy a separate seat for the infant. Currently, Air India Express and some other Indian carriers do not allow the purchase of a separate seat for an infant.

Said an airline official, requesting anonymity: “Some parents might not want to spend and buy a separate seat for the infant, given that accidents are a rare occurrence. But CRS can keep infants safe during turbulence as well. Those who wish to buy a separate seat should have that option.” Directorate General of Civil Aviation Arun Kumar said: “We have just seen the AIX Kozhikode accident report. An appropriate call will be taken in due course.”

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) team collected feedback from the parent of a deceased infant. The infant — although placed on the lap — was not held firmly as the crew made no announcement of the impact. Therefore, during the frontal impact of the crash, the infant was displaced from the lap and was thrown in the cabin and, as a result, received fatal injuries, it said. Air India Express does not have provisions for child/infant restraint system and they rely solely on lap-held infants without any supplemental restraint, it added.

13/09/21 Manju V/Times of India

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