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  • Writer's pictureAvaitors Maldives

Air India Express COVID19 repatriation Flight 1344 skids off the runway. Here’s what we know so far.

On August 07th, 2020 An Air India Express Boeing 737-800, registration VT-AXH performing COVID-19 repatriation flight IX-1344 from Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Kozhikode, India with 184 passengers and 6 crew, landed at Kozhikode's runway 10 but went past the runway end safety area (150meter/500 feet) and fell into a valley at 19:41L (14:11Z) coming to a stop about 100 feet below the runway and about 245 meters/800 feet past the runway end. 18 people including both pilots died in the accident. 138 passengers received injuries of varying degrees with 15 of them in critical condition.

According to ADS-B Data, the aircraft had attempted one approach to runway 28 about 20 minutes prior to the landing but had gone around from about 2700 feet. There was no fire reported at the time of the crash as much of the aircraft fuel has been burned off during the time the aircraft was holding.

Passenger Renjith Panangad, 34, recalled:

“After the crash, the emergency door opened and I dragged myself out somehow,” he told AFP from a hospital bed in Kozhikode.

Local resident Fazal Puthiyakath was among the first persons at the scene, he recalled:

“All that we could hear were screams all around. People were soaked in blood everywhere, some had fractures, some were unconscious,”

On August 8th, 2020; India's Aviation Minister reported that both black boxes have been recovered. A few victims are still in critical condition. Kerala's Chief Minister's Office reported one victim of the accident has been tested positive for Corona so far, all victims including the deceased will be tested for Corona.

METAR report at the time of the crash:

VOCL 071430Z 24011KT 2000 -RA SCT003 SCT012 FEW025CB OVC080 24/23 Q1009 TEMPO 1500 -RA BR= VOCL 071400Z 26012KT 2000 -RA SCT003 SCT012 FEW025CB OVC080 24/23 Q1008 TEMPO 1500 -RA BR=

Captain Deepak Vasant Sathe and First Officer Akhilesh Kumar were both killed during the crash. Captain Deepak V Sathe was an alumnus of the 58th course of the NDA. He had passed out the AFA with the prestigious Sword of Honour. He served as a fighter pilot in the IAF and was a test pilot and a Qualified flight Instructor. After a 22-year successful career, he retired as a Wing Commander from the IAF in 2003. About a year later, he joined Air India and initially flew the Airbus A310 as a First Officer. He later joined Air India Express as a Boeing 737 pilot. First Officer Kumar leaves behind a pregnant wife who is expecting in the coming weeks.

The Airport:

The Calicut International Airport located in Karipur, Kozhikode, is one of the riskiest and most unsafe airports in India as per Directorate General of Civil Aviation 2011 data. Captain Mohan Ranganathan, a member of a safety advisory committee of the Ministry of Civil Aviation in 2011, had called it 'unsafe' and had recommended that it not be used for landing during wet conditions. He had noted that it had a tabletop runway with a down-slope, and inadequate buffer zone or runway end safety areas (RESA) at each end of the runway. Instead of a 240 m (787.5 ft) buffer zone, it had only 90 m (295.5 ft). Several warnings were ignored by the authorities.

Here are accidents that took place in this airport in recent years:

  • On 7 November 2008, Air India Flight 962, an Airbus 310 flying from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, scraped its right wingtip on the runway on landing. Parts of the plane's wing broke, leaving a mark on the runway.

  • On 9 July 2012, an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 skidded on landing, during heavy rain. The aircraft's landing gear impacted with runway beacons, breaking them. There were no casualties on board.

  • On 25 April 2017, an Air India A321-200 suffered an engine failure during takeoff, resulting in a left tire burst. The takeoff was aborted and the flight canceled.

  • On 4 August 2017, a SpiceJet Bombardier Dash8 skidded on landing and damaged the ILS beacons.

Ten years ago a similar accident took place by the same airline in the same aircraft. Air India Express flight IX-812 from Dubai, UAE on the Boeing 737-800 to Mangalore, India with 160 passengers and 6 crew, overran the runway while landing on Mangalore's runway 24 at 06:05L (00:35Z), the aircraft hit the localizer antenna, went through an airport fence and down a steep embankment into a ravine. The airplane burst into flames, 8 survivors were taken to local hospitals with varying degrees of injuries, 158 occupants perished in the crash. The Court of Inquiry determines that the cause of this accident was Captain’s failure to discontinue the ‘unstabilized approach’ and his persistence in continuing with the landing, despite three calls from the First Officer to ‘go around’ and a number of warnings from EGPWS.

The airplane crossed the runway threshold at 200 feet AGL at a speed of 160 KIAS instead of the target 50 feet AGL at 144 KIAS and touched down about 4500 feet down the runway, bounced and touched down a second time 5200 feet down the runway with just 2800 feet of the paved surface remaining. Soon after touchdown, the captain selected reverse thrust, auto brakes set to level 2 operated. About 6 seconds after the brakes began operating and after the reversers were selected the captain announced "Go Around" - against Boeing standard operating procedures not permitting go-arounds after selecting reverse thrust -, the brakes pressure decreased, the thrust reversers returned to their stowed position, both thrust levers were moved fully forward, the speed brakes retracted and remained retracted, the engines accelerated to 77.5/87.5% N1. The airplane departed the paved surface, the right-wing impacted the localizer antenna, the aircraft went through the airport perimeter fence, fell down a gorge, broke up in three major parts, and burst into flames. No distress call was received at any time. All but 8 passengers aboard perished.

Source: the Avherald.



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