IAF Pilot among 17 dead as Air India Express plane overshoots runway, plunges into valley

Kozhikode plane crash.

Kozhikode (Kerala)/New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) In one of the worst air disasters witnessed in Kerala, an Air India Express flight, returning from Dubai under the Vande Bharat mission, crashed at the “table top” Kozhikode airport on Friday evening, leaving at least 17, of the 190 people aboard, dead including pilot, Capt D.V. Sathe and his co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar.

The plane skidded off the runaway as it landed on its second attempt amid heavy rain, plunged 35 feet into the valley below, and broke into two pieces.

Following the accident, which occurred at 7.41 p.m., the Kozhikode airport has been closed and the flights scheduled to land there have been diverted to Kannur airport, about 80 km away.

Expressing deep anguish over the incident, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said a formal enquiry will be conducted into the incident by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).

According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Air India Express AXB1344, a B737 aircraft, with 190 people on board, landed on Runway 10 amid visibility of 2,000 metres in heavy rain, but overshot and nose-dived into the valley, breaking into two pieces.

Authorities in Kerala, however, said that there were 184 people – 128 men, 46 women and 10 children – on board, as five people who had a ticket did not board the aircraft.

According to the latest information collated from the various hospitals where the injured have been hospitalised, there are 123 who have been injured and the condition of 15 of them is serious.

Malappuram District Collector Gopalakrishnan said that the last of the two passengers inside the aircraft has been taken out.

Passenger Mohammed Ali, who lost his job in Dubai and was returning home with three of his friends, said that they were watching the beautiful sight of Kozhikode town when the aircraft was getting ready to land.

“But suddenly, we felt the aircraft was going up again. Surprisingly, there was no announcement. Then it circled for about 15 minutes…. and then everything happened in a jiffy… it came down and there was a noise. Soon, things came to a standstill and I managed to escape through the opening, landed on the wing and jumped off.

“Then my fear was will it go up in fire and hence, I ran. In the process, my leg and hip suffered an injury. I was one of the first people to be taken to a hospital. Am now waiting for the doctor to come to take me for a scan, as I have a pain. Otherwise, I am fine,” said Ali who hails from Koilandy in Kozhikode district.

Another passenger in the hospital, identifying himself as Riyaz, said that he was sitting in the back seats.

“I now am in no position to recall what happened, but there was a loud noise. I feel the pilot could not see the runway and hence, he took the plane up again and then came down,” he said.

An eyewitness on the ground said that he rushed to the spot on hearing the sound of the crash.

“I live around 20 metres away from the compound wall of the airport and hearing the loud sound, a few of us came rushing. We saw the cockpit of the aircraft jutting out of the compound wall,” the local resident said.

“We were a few people and we started to bang the airport gate, but the CISF personnel did not open it. We saw a fire engine and an ambulance arriving after which the CISF personnel asked for help and we rushed inside. We rescued the children first and assisted several others also,” he added.

State Health Minister K.K. Shailaja said that the condition of a mother and child was reported to be serious.

Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan, who hails from the state, said the Karipur airport as it is known is a table top airport, and that was one reason why the plane plunged into the valley, causing its middle part to break open.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan about it. Table top airports have a disadvantage during rainy seasons. Generally, during heavy rains, aircraft are not allowed to land at table top airports. All these things will come out in the DGCA probe,” said Muraleedharan.

Local legislator T.V. Ibrahim who was at a local hospital near the airport asked TV channels to beam the images of a young boy he was carrying in his arms as his parents were missing and to help the boy’s relatives in locating him at the Kondotty Relief Hospital.

According to information from the spot, the passengers sitting in the front rows of the plane had been seriously injured.

Vijayan has directed Local Self Government Minister A.C. Moideen and Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel to rush to the spot to oversee relief operations.

Chennai: Vehicles wade through a water-logged road after heavy rains lashed Chennai, on July 28, 2020. (Photo: IANS)

Rains, slippery or water-logged runway may cause hydroplaning

There can be several reasons for an aircraft to skid on the runway but the most likely causes are bad weather conditions, slippery or water-logged runway due to excessive rains, according to an experienced pilot.

On Friday evening an Air India Express aircraft flying in from Dubai skidded off the runway while landing in Kozhikode and plunged into the deep valley below.

At least 14 people have reportedly died in the accident, including the pilot of the flight, Capt D.V. Sathe.

The incident occurred at 7.41 p.m. on Friday, when the flight from Dubai to Kozhikode skidded off the runway after landing at the ‘table-top’ airport amid rain.

The aircraft with 190 persons onboard, including six crew members, battled heavy rains while landing.

“It may be due to lack of friction between the tyres and the runway. There might be water logging resulting in what we call hydroplaning,” the pilot not wanting to be quoted told IANS.

Hydroplaning is a condition in which standing water causes the moving wheel of an aircraft to lose contact with the load-bearing surface, that is the runway.

This leads to the braking action of the wheel being rendered ineffective so that the aircraft’s speed can not be reduced after landing.

Pilot of crashed AI Express flight earlier flew MiG-21s in IAF

Kozhikode plane crash: Pilot among 11 dead.

 Captain Deepak V. Sathe, who was among those killed when the Air India Express plane he was piloting crashed in Kerala’s Kozhikode on Friday, was a former Indian Air Force officer, who flew the MiG-21 fighter aircraft with 17 Squadron (Golden Arrows) in Ambala.

The squadron saw action in the 1999 Kargil war and has been recently resurrected with induction of multi-role Rafale jet fighters, built by France’s Dassault.

Sathe, who had also served as an instructor at the Air Force Training Academy, had taken premature retirement from the IAF, shifted to civilian flying and joined Air India.

In one of the worst air disasters witnessed in Kerala, the Air India Express flight, returning from Dubai under the Vande Bharat mission, skidded off the runaway at the “table top” Kozhikode airport leaving at least 16, of the 190 people on board, dead including the pilots. The plane plunged 35 feet into the valley below, as it landed on its second attempt amid heavy rain on Friday.

According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Air India Express AXB1344, a B737 aircraft, with 190 people onboard, landed on Runway 10 amid visibility of 2,000 metres in heavy rain, but overshot and nose-dived into the valley and broke into two pieces.


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