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‘Kozhikode plane crash not an accident but murder’: Air safety expert Capt Mohan Ranganathan

Ranganathan explained how table-top runways, the one in the case of the Kozhikode airport, have very little space and therefore require more safety features. “There’s no escape for an aircraft if it overruns,” Ranganathan told HT. 

If appropriate steps are not taken, accident similar to Friday’s airplane crash in Kozhikode could occur next at Patna, Jammu airports, air safety expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan said in a conversation with Hindustan Times. During the interview, Ranganathan, who is a member of a safety advisory committee constituted by the civil aviation ministry, said he had submitted a report around nine years ago, warning that the Calicut (now Kozhikode) airport was not safe for landings.

“The warnings were ignored… in my opinion, it is not an accident but a murder. Their own audits have had flagged safety issues” Ranganathan said, adding that the crash could have been well avoided. 

Ranganathan explained how table-top runways, the one in the case of the Kozhikode airport, have very little space and therefore require more safety features. 

“There’s a drop of around 70 metres at the end of the runway at the Kozhikode airport, in the case of Mangalore it is about a 100 metres. There’s no escape for an aircraft if it overruns,” he explained. 

“You will find another major accident either in Patna or Jammu airport. Both of them are dangerous airfields and don’t have safety features” he said.

Almost a decade ago, in a letter addressed to the chairman of Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC) and civil aviation secretary, Ranganathan had pointed that the Runway 10 of the Kozhikode airport could be risky for landing in tailwind conditions in rain.

“I understand that Runway 10 ILS is being used on a trial basis at Calicut. Some of the crew are accepting even VOR approach on Runway 10. The reason is the lower minima than Runway 28. However, all the flights that land on Runway 10 in tailwind conditions in rain, are endangering the lives of all on board,” he had said.

He also said that the airport does not have the minimum Runway End Safety Area (RESA).

“The runway strip is just half the minimum width laid down in ICAO Annex 14. This fact was known to the DGCA team that has been conducting inspections and safety assessments during the past several years. Have they considered the danger involved? Has the DGCA or the airlines laid down any operational restrictions or special procedures?” he had written.

At least 18 people, including the pilot and the co-pilot, have been killed as Air India Express flight IX 1344 overshot the runway at Kerala’s Kozhikode airport and fell into a valley, breaking into two on Friday evening. The flight was bringing Indians stranded in Dubai amid Covid-19 pandemic under the government’s Vande Bharat Mission.

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