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Runway Friction at Kerala Airport Was Not Tested Before Air India Flight Crash-Landed in Heavy Rain: Sources

Officials inspect the site where a passenger plane crashed when it overshot the runway at the Calicut International Airport in Karipur, in Kerala. (REUTERS)

Officials inspect the site where a passenger plane crashed when it overshot the runway at the Calicut International Airport in Karipur, in Kerala. (REUTERS)

A friction testing vehicle is considered critical, especially at table top airport runways like the one at Karipur airport near Kozhikode.

Runway friction testing was not done at the Karipur airport near Kozhikode on Friday where an Air India Express passenger plane crash-landed on Friday evening, killing at least 18 people.

Sources told News18 that a friction testing vehicle was brought from Chennai, however, it could not be used before the accident. A friction testing vehicle measures friction on airports runways, taxiways and highways. The system runs through a measuring wheel, which is mechanically geared to one of the rear main wheels of a base car.

Such a device is considered critical, especially at table top airport runways like the one in Calicut and Mangalore.

However, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) chief Arun Kumar later on Saturday told CNN-News18 it is incorrect to say friction testing was not done. "The Calicut Airport is the 11th busiest airport in the pilot. It is incorrect that friction testing was not done," he said. "There was poor judgement of pilots while landing, the runway was long enough for safe landing."

The Boeing-737 plane, which was bringing back Indian citizens from Dubai as part of the Vande Bharat mission, skidded off the runway of Calicut, crashing nose-first into the ground. Table top runways are located at an altitude and have steep drops at one or both ends.

Air traffic control sources said it was the pilot's call on whether to land under such conditions while adding that the landing on Friday was beyond the touchdown point.

The Air India Express flight from Dubai with 190 on board had overshot the runway while landing in heavy rains and fell into a valley 35 feet below and broke into two pieces.

Twenty three people have also been seriously injured in the accident. This was India's worst passenger aircraft accident since 2010.

The black box and cockpit voice recorder have been recovered from the site of an Air India Express passenger aircraft crash in Kerala, a top official at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said.

DGCA chief Arun Kumar, meanwhile, said it is too early to tell whether the accident was a result of a technical fault or human error.

Kumar said the tabletop runway at the Karipur airport was 8000 feet long, which is sufficient for a Boeing 737 to land. The aircraft landed 3000 feet from the beginning of the runway at the Kozhikode airport.

The Kozhikode airport in Kerala has a table-top runway and is operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Generally, table-top runways are constructed on a hilly or an elevated terrain.

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