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Kozhikode Airport Operator Addressed All Issues Red-Flagged by DGCA in the Past: Aviation Minister

Puri said he expects that the domestic air traffic would reach pre-COVID levels by the end of this year. (File Photo/PTI)

Puri said he expects that the domestic air traffic would reach pre-COVID levels by the end of this year. (File Photo/PTI)

Hardeep Singh Puri said DGCA strictly ensures that safety issues are complied with and rectified under all circumstances and this was done by the airport operator.

All issues such as excessive rubber deposits, water stagnation and cracks that were red-flagged by the aviation regulator DGCA were "addressed and rectified" by the Kozhikode airport operator, said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Saturday.

The statement came after news reports said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation 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" in different places, including the runway and the apron. "It is indeed a fact that several issues were routinely red-flagged by DGCA, and were addressed by the (Kozhikode) airport operator. These pertain to excessive rubber deposits, water stagnation, cracks and other routine issues," Puri tweeted a day after a plane crash in Kozhikode that claimed 18 lives.

The point is that raising such concerns is the normal work of the DGCA, he noted. "The DGCA also strictly ensures that these are complied with and rectified under all circumstances. This was done by the airport operator," the minister added.


Puri said an inquiry has been ordered into the plane crash and its findings will be made public. "I will encourage all to exercise patience and refrain from making speculative observations bordering on the irresponsible. Again to emphasize, all the issues were addressed and rectified," the minister said.

The Air India Express flight from Dubai with 190 people on board overshot the runway at the airport in Kerala at 7.40 pm on Friday in rainy conditions and went down 35 feet into a slope before breaking up into two, killing at least 18 people. The minister said some of his "colleagues in the political system" have raised queries regarding the accident without ascertaining facts.

For example, he put out a screenshot of a tweet by Thiruvananthapuram MP Shahi Tharoor, who alleged that warnings had been given about dangers of landing in heavy rain at Kozhikode airport and the Airports Authority of India knew an accident was waiting to happen. "I would advise all those who are looking for a few columns of media space that we should wait for the outcome of the statutory inquiry and then visit the issue with facts. Instant civil aviation safety expertise by self-styled experts should better be avoided," Puri stressed.

The minister also posted a screenshot of a tweet by Ludhiana MP of Congress, Ravneet Singh Bittu, who alleged that "despite several red flags and 2015 ban on wide-body aircraft's landing at Kozhikode airport, Hardeep Singh Puri removed the ban in July 2019 leading to such a fatal crash and loss of lives". Puri tweeted that the aircraft involved in the accident on Friday evening was a B-737-800, which is not a wide-body aircraft. B-737-800 is a narrow-body aircraft.

"AAI strengthened the runway and thereafter necessary permissions were issued in 2018 to operate wide-body aircraft. Consequently, certain carriers started operating some flights with wide-body aircraft to Kozhikode Airport," he said. Puri reached Kozhikode Saturday afternoon. He went to the accident site, before visiting Kozhikode Medical College, where senior doctors briefed him and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan about the condition of the injured people admitted for treatment.

"Senior doctors briefed us on the status of various people admitted for treatment. 149 people have been admitted to various hospitals. 23 have been discharged while 3 are critically injured (sic)," he said in a tweet. Saturday evening, the aviation minister said, he discussed with senior officials like Aviation Secretary P S Kharola, AAI Chairman Arvind Singh and DGCA chief Arun Kumar to "the situation arising due to the accident in Kozhikode".

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"Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of the ill-fated aircraft have been retrieved. AAIB is conducting investigations," Puri said in another tweet. A DGCA official said the two devices — DFDR and CVR — were with the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau and would be sent to Delhi for further investigation.

"My heart goes out to the families & friends of the 18 people who lost their lives in the air accident involving @FlyWithIX Flight IX-1344 in Kozhikode last evening & offer my heartfelt condolences (sic)," Puri tweeted earlier in the day.