Runway issue at Kozhikode airport was resolved, says AAI chairman

Airport Authority of India chairman Arvind Singh said Saturday that issues with the runway at the Kozhikode airport where an Air India flight crashed Friday evening had been resolved.

“Directorate General of Civil Aviation had some issues with the runway in 2015, but after resolving those issues, clearance was given to it in 2019. The jumbo jets of Air India also used to land there,” ANI quoted Singh as saying.

He also said that the aircraft could not land on the designated runway.

“The aircraft could not land at a runway on which it had to, then landing was tried on another runway where the mishap happened. We are monitoring situation and the airport will become operational soon. An alternative facility in Nagpur is also under progress,” he said.

At least 18 people, including the pilot and the co-pilot, were killed when the aircraft with 190 people on board overshot the runway amid heavy rain at Kozhikode airport and fell into a valley and split into two. The flight was bringing Indians stranded in Dubai amid Covid-19 pandemic under the government’s Vande Bharat Mission.

A probe 10 years ago after a similar crash at Mangalore airport, had pointed out the dangers of tabletop runways.

India has three tabletop airports from where scheduled flights operate. These are Mangalore, Kozhikode and Lengpui (Mizoram). The probe report said that because of the undulating terrain and constraints of space, these airfields require extra skill and caution while carrying out flight operations.

“The hazard of undershooting and overshooting, in particular, can lead to grave situations, as was the case in this (Mangaolre) accident. These table-top runways also have a problem of access roads around the airfield, which may need to be used in case of aircraft accidents,” it added.

Friday’s crash at Kozhikode has an eerie similarity to the Mangalore accident on 22 May 2010 when a Boeing 737-800 Air India Express Flight from Dubai crashed on landing at Mangalore amid rain. The aircraft had overshot the runway and fell a hillside and burst into flames killing 158 of the 160 people on board.

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