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DGCA Had Issued Notice to Kozhikode Airport Over Critical Safety Lapses in 2019

The Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. The special evacuation flight bringing people home to India who had been trapped abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off the runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain killing more than a dozen people and injuring dozens more. (AP Photo/C.K.Thanseer)

The Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. The special evacuation flight bringing people home to India who had been trapped abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off the runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain killing more than a dozen people and injuring dozens more. (AP Photo/C.K.Thanseer)

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.

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" in different places, including the runway and the apron, 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, stated another DGCA official.

Asked if any action was taken against Rao after the notice, he said, "We had raised certain issues, which were duly complied with. The concerned officer (Rao) was reprimanded."

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.

In a statement on Saturday evening, the DGCA said, "Based on the above findings, a show-cause notice was issued to the airport director at Calicut for non-compliance and advised to take immediate action on findings."

"Airport Director, Calicut sent a compliance report on August 5, 2019. After examination of the compliance report, all the major findings were closed," the regulator noted.

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.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri reached Kozhikode on Saturday to take stock of the relief measures.

Officials of the AAIB (Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau), 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 have been 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.

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