In the wake of the 18 people who lost their lives yesterday after the Air India plane skid off the runway and dived into the 35-feet valley before splitting into two in Kerala, we need to pay attention to the negligence of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI).
They were continuously reminded about the security lapses at the airports, which were deemed unfit, dangerous, and below International security standards as per the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) back in 2018. They did almost nothing to safeguard the passenger’s life, despite knowing the Indian airport history hasn’t been kind on us.
About nine years ago, Captain Mohan Ranganathan warned about the absence of a ‘runway end safety area’ (RESA) in India’s tabletop runways. He immediately requested for 240 meters buffer zone in his letter to the chairman of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Committee (CASAC) dated July 17, 2011.
The Kozhikode airport is not the only tabletop airport in India, but Mangalore and Mizoram are also dangerously built on the cliff. When a pilot lands a plane, the tabletop runaway creates an optical illusion of a leveled field, and if the heavy rainfall caused the plane to skid, the surviving expectancy is often less.
We should not forget the death of 158 people on May 22, 2010, when an inbound Air India flight 812 from Dubai to Mangalore slipped and fell into the ditch. The optimal length of the runway should be 9000 feet as per the International Standard, but the majority of Indian airports fall short of it.
According to the report filed by the US aviation regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the effective implementation of personnel licensing fell to 26 per cent from 89 per cent, which majorly contributed to the downgrade of the Indian airports.
Jay Prakash Narayan Airport, Patna is the most discussed dangerous airport in India, with a runway length of just 6410 feet and built in the closed proximity of urban lands, on July 17, 2000, Alliance Air Flight 7412 crashed just before the landing causing 60 fatalities.
Jammu Airport, with a runway length of just 6700 feet, it is prone to significant accidents. On January 9, 2017, an Air India Airbus A320-200 overran runway 36 on landing, though no casualties were reported, no measures were taken either to reduce the risk factor. Lengpui Airport, Mizoram, is another tabletop airport among three (Mangalore & Calicut) with a runway length of 8200 feet.
The government has safety plans, but nothing concrete has been done apart from installing the Cat-I Instrument Landing System, which helps the pilot land in low-visibility situations.
Last month, AirAsia ticked off whistleblower Pilot Gaurav Taneja, who allegedly on his YouTube channel Flying Beast talked about the violations of safety norms by the low-cost airline. DGCA issued a show-cause notice to AirAsia India’s Head of Operations, Manish Uppal.
Though DGCA tweeted on June 15 of taking due action on the serious allegation against the company, we are still waiting for the response. Whenever a significant incident occurs, all the security flaws come flying down to everybody’s attention, but sooner the dust settles, it vanishes.
It’s not a matter of pride when Indian airlines are counted among the world’s riskiest. Indian Government’s DGCA should right away co-ordinate with the state-run AAI to immediately eradicate every risk factor that could put the lives in jeopardy. Has the need for RESA been addressed nine years ago, could it have saved the 18 lives yesterday? We are left to wonder, but the government should make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Article written By Tushant Baranwal
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