The Air India Express plane that skidded off the tabletop runway at Karipur airport near Kerala's Kozhikode killing 19 people appears to have attempted to land twice at the airport, data from a popular global flight tracker website shows.
Flightradar24, a Swedish firm that shows real-time commercial flight tracking information on a map, indicated that the Boeing 737 NG that came from Dubai with 190 people on board circled the airport and tried to land twice in the heavy rain.
"Because of the weather conditions, he (the pilot) could not land the first time, so he did a turnaround and tried to approach it from a different direction," Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told national broadcaster DD News, adding that the crash appears to have been caused by a slippery runway.
At least 18 people, including both the pilots, have been killed in the crash and over a 100 are injured, many of them critical. Some of the survivors told local television channels that the aircraft went up and down many times as it attempted to land and the disaster occurred after the plane had touched the runway.
There were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew members on board the aircraft.
The flight skidded off the tabletop runway and fell into a 35-feet valley breaking into two portions. Tabletop runways are known for being difficult to land even for the best of the commercial pilots. It is essentially a runway built over a hill by levelling the surface. These high altitude runways have a steep drop either on one side or both sides.
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.”