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Air India Kozhikode Crash: Why Tabletop Runways Are Dangerous for Even Most Experienced Pilots

A visual from the runway where the Air India Express plane crashed on Friday night.

A visual from the runway where the Air India Express plane crashed on Friday night.

A similar crash happened 10 years back when a Dubai to Mangalore flight overshot the runway while attempting a landing at the Mangalore International Airport.

An Air India Express flight IX 1344 today crashed at the Kozhikode International Airport while landing. The Boeing 737 aircraft was operating under the Mission Vande Bharat repatriating flyers from Dubai to Calicut and overshot the runway.

The plane was carrying 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew members out of which at least 14 people, including a pilot are reported killed and 123 injured. The flight skidded off the tabletop runway and fell into a 50-feet valley breaking into two portions.

Tabletop runways are known for being difficult to land a aircraft even for the best of the commercial pilots. A tabletop runway is essentially a runway built over a hill by leveling the surface. These high altitude runways have a steep drop either on one side or both sides.

If there's a cliff, like in the case of Kozhikode crash, pilots have be extra careful to stop the plane at the right distance. However, in rainy weather, situation becomes tricky and often poses challenge for the pilots to understand the correct landing spot, which leads to plane overshooting the runway.

A similar incident happened 10 years back when a Dubai to Mangalore flight crashed while attempting a landing on the tabletop runway of Mangalore International Airport. 158 people onboard flight were killed while 8 survived, making it one of the most disastrous air crashes in the Indian aviation industry.

India's top aviation body, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has ordered a detailed inquiry into the matter. It said the plane broke into "two pieces" after landing at the airport.

"The aircraft didn’t land properly. It was raining heavily, it then skid off the runway and fell into a 35-ft valley. Two dead is what we know as per initial reports but the rescue operation is on," DGCA Director Arun Kumar told CNN-News18. "We are ascertaining the situation."

The pilot of the flight was a former Air Force Pilot who also flew Airbus 310 for Air India before moving to Air India Express flying the Boeing 737. Captain Sathe has won 'Sword of Honour' at AFA, was accomplished fighter pilot, and was HAL test pilot too.

With Inputs from Agencies