Aviation regulator DGCA had issued a show-cause notice to the director of the Kozhikode airport on July 11 last year after it found "various critical safety lapses", officials said on Saturday. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation pointed to cracks on the runway, water stagnation and excessive rubber deposits among other lapses in its show-cause notice.
The DGCA conducted the inspection after an Air India Express flight coming from Dammam in Saudi Arabia had a "tail strike" while landing at the Calicut (Kozhikode) airport on July 2 last year, an official said. A little over a year later, on Friday evening, an Air India Express flight from Dubai with 190 people on board overshot "runway 10" at the Calicut airport in heavy rain and went down 35 feet into a gorge before breaking into two pieces, killing at least 18 people.
"After the July 2 incident last year, the DGCA inspected the airport on July 4 and July 5 and found various critical safety lapses," said a senior DGCA official. On July 11, Kozhikode airport director K Srinivasa Rao was issued a show cause notice, added another DGCA official.
However, it is not clear if any action was taken against Rao after the show-cause was issued. The show-cause notice, which PTI accessed, said "cracks are observed at runway 28 TDZ (touchdown zone) and along runway C/L (center/left) marking at runway 10 TDZ".
The touchdown zone (TDZ) is the part where the aircraft first contacts the surface while landing. The touchdown zone is ahead of the threshold area of the runway. The notice also said "excessive rubber deposit" was observed in the area from runway C/L marking to three metres on both the sides of touchdown zone of runway 28.
Similar excessive rubber deposits were found by the DGCA along runway C/L marking of touchdown zone of runway 10, according to the notice. "Water stagnation of about 1.5 metre length was observed on the area between runway edge and intermediate turn pad on runway 28," it said.
Besides, the DGCA found several cracks in aircraft stand number 5. It also observed that a "portion of Apron surface" of about 111 metres was damaged, it said. Apron is the area of the airport where aircraft are parked, refuelled and where passengers board. "A steep downward slope of approximately five feet depth is observed immediately after the apron behind aircraft number 1, which needs to be levelled and graded," the notice said.
The DGCA observed a shortage of reserve stock of 6,630 litres of Aqueous Film Forming Foam concentrate (AFFF) and 140 kg of "DCP complementary agent" - both are used to put out fires - at the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) station of the airport. Air India Express, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, said on Saturday that three relief flights had been arranged to Kozhikode in Kerala to assist passengers and their family members affected by the plane crash a day ago. Officials said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri will go to Kozhikode on Saturday.
Officials of the AAIB (Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau), the DGCA and the flight safety department of the airline have reached the accident site to investigate the accident, said the airline on Saturday morning. Scheduled international passenger flights remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
However, special repatriation flights have been operated by Air India and Air India Express since May 6 under the Vande Bharat Mission to help stranded people reach their destinations. Private carriers have also operated a certain number of flights under this mission. PTI DSP HMB MIN