- Air India Express flight IX-1344 from Dubai to Calicut crashed while landing
- The flight was operating under Vande Bharat Mission
- At least 18 people have lost their lives, including both pilots
At around 7:40 PM on Friday night an Air India Express flight carrying 191 people skidded off a tabletop runway due to heavy rains and broke into pieces at the Kozhikode airport in Kerala. It has been reported that at least 18 people have lost their lives, including both of the pilots.
The Boeing 737 aircraft overshot the runway and slid into the valley, said Hardeen Singh Puri who is the Civil Aviation Minister. The Civil Aviation Ministry has also ordered an investigation into the accident.
The pilots, one of whom was a decorated former fighter pilot, had aborted landing twice due to tailwind and were circling the airport before they attempted the final landing. The area had been slammed by torrential rains since Thursday.
An investigator of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was quoted by ANI as saying, “According to weather radar, the approach was for runway 28 but as the pilots faced difficulties, they went around twice and came from the opposite side on runway 10 and the plane crash-landed,”.
The officer said that the aircraft was at full speed while landing and continued to the edge of the runway and fell over in the valley.
The Air India Express flight IX-1344 which took off from Dubai for Calicut was operating under the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate the Indian nationals who were stranded abroad due to the lockdowns put in place to contain the novel Coronavirus.
Air India Express, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India, only has B-737 aircraft in its fleet.
It was reported that in total 191 people were on board the flight including 4 cabin crew members. Many passengers were workers returning home after losing their jobs due to the pandemic.
An even worse tragedy was avoided as the plane did not catch fire after the crash. With the heavy downpour, rescue personnel, including the local policemen, pulled out people from the debris and sharp pieces of the aeroplane’s fuselage which had scattered on the slope.
Little children, wailing in fear, were found trapped under seats.
Investigating officers from the DGCA, Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, the CEO of Air India express and other officials of Air India and Air India Express were flown to Kozhikode early today to inquire into what happened. An aircraft from Mumbai also took “Angels of Air India” — grief counsellors — and other employees to coordinate relief and assistance.
Help centres have already been set up in both Sharjah and Dubai.
There are injured passengers who are being reported to be in critical condition.
Quoting one of the passengers who was rescued from the plane crash, PTI wrote, “I was in the back seat. There was a big noise and I don’t know what happened after that,” and the passenger added that the flight went around the airport at least twice before attempting the landing.
Both Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and President of India Ram Nath Kovind expressed grief on the tragic accident which took place on Friday night.
Prime Minister tweeted, “Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to Kerala CM @vijayanpinarayi Ji regarding the situation. Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected.”
Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to Kerala CM @vijayanpinarayi Ji regarding the situation. Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 7, 2020
President of India said, “Deeply distressed to hear about the tragic plane crash of Air India Express flight at Kozhikode, Kerala. Spoke to @KeralaGovernor Shri Arif Mohammed Khan and inquired about the situation. Thoughts and prayers with affected passengers, crew members and their families.” on Twitter.
The Kozhikode airport which has been carved on atop a hill with limited space at the end of the runway is amongst Kerala’s most prominent international airports and handles many flights on a daily basis.
Back in 2010, an Air India Express flight had crashed at the Mangaluru International Airport in a similar manner only that time the death tally was way higher. The crash claimed the lives of 158 people.
The Air India Express flight from Dubai had overshot the runway and then plunged down a cliff into the wooded valley. Going by an early investigation which found that the Captain had misjudged the height while landing, resulted in the flight overshooting the runway located on a plateau.
Reports claim that the authorities had not acted on a proposal to install a system at Kozhikode to stop planes from plunging off the edge.
Helplines: Air India Express – 1800 2222 71, Airport Control Room – 0483 2719493, Malappuram Collectorate – 0483 2736320, Kozhikode Collectorate – 0495 2376901.