Slippery runway & more so the safety area at Kozhikode may be a leading cause of the Air India Express crash

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RESA  The entire state machinery is on overdrive to defend the Calicut Airport stating that it was completely safe for flight operations. There are two significant points to focus on while determining the causes of the accident.  1. Previous safety audits have pointed to vegetation on the runway end safety area (RESA). 2. The rubber deposits at the ends of the runway may have been a contributory cause of the accident. Comparison A comparison of the runway friction values indicates a possibility of higher rubber deposits or poor runway friction levels at both ends of the runways. A friction level below 0.47 requires maintenance action as per the Indian Aeronautical Information Publication. The combination of runway friction and vegetation on the RESA may have been a significant factor that may have caused the Air India Express 1344 runway overrun at Kozhikode on 7th Aug 2020. Must note that the runway has a pronounced crown close to the middle and drops more than 25 feet on either side.

Political will & Institutions needed to become Atmanirbhar in Civil Aircraft Production

A Vimana is a word with several meanings ranging from temple or palace to mythological flying machines described in Sanskrit texts like Yajurveda, Mahabharata, Samarangana Sutradhara, Rigveda, Ramayana and even older ones. As well as being able to fly within Earth’s atmosphere, Vimanas were also said to be able to travel into space and travel under water.

India seems to have failed to capitalise on the rich heritage while countries like Brazil has become successful aircraft manufacturer and has now graduated to electric aircraft manufacturing too. What will it take India to manufacture a commercial aircraft at a time when the Indian Space Industry is winning accolades globally?

A determined political will and establishment of institutions in the civilian aerospace sector is the first step to rediscover the lost technology of making "flying machines" called the "Vaimanika Shastra".

Brazilians might respond with the assertion that the first airplane was invented by their compatriot, Santos Dumont, rather than the Wright brothers. Brazil claims that as early as 1890 Leopoldo Correia da Silva floated stock at 100 milreis per share in the Brazilian Air Transport Company for the construction of aircraft in Rio de Janeiro. Although the venture failed to get off the ground due to inadequate capitalization, Brazilians have never relinquished their dream of a domestic aviation industry.

In 1921, the government had made the Central Aeronautics Centre which also had a wind tunnel for testing in the continent. The year 1969 found Brazil enjoying an economic boom. The gross national product had increased an estimated 8.4 per cent and industrial production had jumped thirteen per cent the previous year. Exhilarated by the progress of automobile & shipping industries, the nation's leaders decided the time was ripe for a major effort to create a Brazilian aviation industry. The Embraer company was formed in 1969 and by March 1971, it had raised a capital of $25.5 million through equity. A number of incentives and tax concessions given to promote the aviation sector.

The government knew that it would be economically unviable to build an aircraft from a scratch, as a result they acquired the technology by purchasing rights of an Italian aircraft. They started with assembly of the aircraft and later manufactured the complete aircraft in Brazil. Brazil is now a leading regional jet aircraft manufacturer globally. They also manufacture military transport aircraft and have a tie up with India for the AWACS aircraft.

India did begin with the Saras project for manufacture of an Indian Commercial Aircraft in the mid 1980 and the prototype flew the first flight in 2004. The aircraft project by the National Aerospace Laboratories suffered a setback when the aircraft crashed in 2009. The project suffered another blow when their funds dried up in 2013 and the engineers got deployed on other projects.

The dream of an Indian commercial aircraft was put on hold and the reason was primarily the lack of political will and a dedicated institution for the development of the commercial aircraft. 

The Embraer commercial entered into a $4.2 Billion joint venture with Boeing but early 2020, Boeing decided to call off the project. This was a golden opportunity for India to form an alliance and jump start the Indian commercial dream. However, on 2nd Dec, the CEO of Embraer announced that Commercial aviation is no longer for sale, as the company presented its market forecast for the next ten years.

The civil aviation sector in India has been surviving on foreign support in terms of training of pilots from the ab-initio stage till the advanced airline pilot training. Almost 60% of all training is carried out at locations outside India thereby becoming a huge drain on the exchequer. In the next 10 years, the civil aviation sector will spend over $1.5 billion on various training activities but due to the poor training infrastructure in India, most of the training will take place outside India. This not only affects the cost and foreign exchange but also the lack of oversight on the training standards.

The Indian Government has drawn up a roadmap for 2040 with the aim of making India as a manufacturing base. However the foundation still remains unsteady since there is a lack of institutions and private sector participation in manufacturing of aircraft and training equipment. 





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