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October 20, 2021
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Kozhikode plane mishap was a disaster in waiting, say experts

The plane crash in Kozhikode airport which killed 18 people and grievously injured 100 others could have been easily averted, say experts. The DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) has been ignoring repeated warnings on airport safety audits. Since then, the DGCA has come under fire for overlooking the warnings given to them.

The airport is unsafe for landing

According to Captain Mohan Ranganathan, a former key member of the Union Civil Aviation Ministry’s safety advisory committee revealed that he had apprised the government nine years ago about the lurking danger. He told the then government how unfit the Karipur runway at Kozhikode was for landing.

Back in 2011, he made some valuable suggestions, which, if heeded to, could have saved the lives of the people. Airports like the Kozhikode, touted as the tabletop airports, are very dangerous and are always at risk. 

In a letter to the then chairman of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Committee (CASAC) and former Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA, civil aviation regulator), Captain Ranganathan said, “All the flights that land on tailwind conditions in rain are endangering the lives of all on board.” 

He also cited the Air India Express accident in Mangalore, saying that it should have alerted the AAI to look into the Karipur runaway and make it safe. The conditions become worse during the wet season making it perilous for every single operation.

Tabletop airports risky, need more attention

The tabletop airports should be accorded special status because they flirt with danger all the time. The Karipur runaway is one of the top five tabletop airports in India. The others include— Mangaluru (Karnataka), Lengpui (Mizoram), Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) and Pakyong (Sikkim).

Tabletop runways like the Kozhikode are built on a hilly or an elevated terrain and in such a way that there is a trench or valley at the front and back of the length of the runway. What is important is an accurate landing. The tabletops airports are extremely tricky and are considered quite challenging even for the top pilots. Making a landing on tabletop runways calls for a precision approach with no margin for errors.

According to Ranganathan, the Kozhikode airport should be immediately closed and all operations should be stopped for a brief period. He also said that airport authorities should be made accountable. The DGCA has now issued a notice to the Kozhikode airport after an audit revealed safety concerns due to excessive rubber deposits on the runway. When it rains the danger grows manifold. 

Experts also say that there should be special training and simulation practice for pilots who operate flights in such sectors. 

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