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Last Updated : Sep 10, 2020 02:08 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Air India Express crash: A year earlier, an Etihad flight's narrow escape at Kozhikode airport was a wake up call

But there is little to show if anything was done to overcome shortcomings of the airport's infrastructure

Was the narrow escape of Etihad's flight EY250, which was flying from Abu Dhabi, in Kozhikode airport in June 2019- just over a year before the Air India Express crash in August - a wake up call that was missed?

Safety experts think so.

"Following the incident, the airline had highlighted its concern to Kozhikode airport authority regarding the infrastructure limitations. These limitations had been identified as contributory to the incident," says Amit Singh, an industry veteran and safety expert.


The concerns, says Singh, were not addressed.

One of the limitations that was highlighted by the investigation by UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority was the absence of centreline lights on runway 28 at the Kozhikode airport.

Singh, a pilot, explains the importance of these lights:

"Runway lights are on the edges of the runway and the nose wheel of the aircraft has to be in between, on the centerline. This ensures that the main wheels which are under the wings are clear of the edges. If the nose wheel is not on the centerline then one main wheel will be close to the edge.

"At night the centerline markings are not visible from a distance especially when it’s raining or poor visibility. Lights help the pilot. Basically the pilot has to keep himself on top of the centreline. DGCA CAR mandates installation of centerline light and there was a previous surveillance report too. But the lights were not installed."

CAR stands for Civil Aviation Regulations, laid down by the regulator, DGCA.

The presence of these lights could have helped the pilots of the Air India Express flight better navigate the aircraft as it landed amid harsh conditions.

Even as safety experts pour over the Etihad flight incident, the AAIB - or Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau - continues with its inquiry into the August 07 tragedy. Air India Express flight IX1344, had overshot the runway in Kozhikode airport, slid down the slope and split into two. Eighteen passengers and two pilots lost their lives.

Moneycontrol has reached out to the AAIB. The story will be updated once it responds.

Similar conditions

In the early hours of June 21, 2019, the Etihad flight faced conditions that were similar to the one the Air India Express aircraft would face over a year later.

Because of rains and wind, the flight aborted its first landing on runway 28, did a go-around and then landed on its second attempt. But presence of water on the runway and in the absence of centreline lights, the aircraft landed and veered closer to the right side of the runway, breaking five runway lights.

There were no injuries. The incident was investigated by the UAE Authority. And this is what it recommended the Kozhikode airport authority:

"In relation to the airport environment, unusual weather condition, and infrastructure limitations such as the absence of runway centerline lightings, absence of full touchdown zone lighting system, and poor ILS signal quality; it is recommended that the Calicut airport authority carefully examine aerodrome operations and devise appropriate safety measures, or consider the practicability of the improvement of the airport infrastructure, in order to mitigate the associated risks."

AAIB investigation

According to the guidelines laid out by ICAO, a preliminary report has to be submitted to it within 30 days of the accident.

ICAO is a UN agency that sets standards for the international aviation industry. While some of its recommendations are mandatory, others are advisory.

But there is no indication, says Singh, that the DGCA or the AAIB has submitted the report on the Air India Express crash.

Moneycontrol has reached out to AAIB for comments, and will update the story once the Bureau responds.
First Published on Sep 10, 2020 01:50 pm