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.

Risky approach & poor investigation of a close shave for 145 Air India passengers at Surat


Source: DGCA incident report

An Air India A320 from New Delhi to Surat on 04th Oct 2017 had a narrow escape from disaster when the crew decided to continue with a high speed approach and touched down late, more than half way down the runway. The investigation was carried out by a sole investigator and the report submitted 3 years hence, which is 3 times later than an accident report would have taken. This gives an indication of the weightage that is given by the authorities to find out the root cause and prevent such occurrences.

The report reveals that the aircraft touched down at the position as indicated in the pictorial description above. The report findings document that 600m was remaining for the flight crew to stop the aircraft. The visibility was absolutely clear but the investigator did not question the Air Traffic Controller why no one could see the aircraft overshoot the runway and report the same? The aircraft was not grounded and the cockpit voice recorder which is a vital piece of information to determine the root cause, not downloaded.
An A320 would typically require 1100m to land and stop on the runway.
Broken lights

The runway lights that have the glass only missing face the opposite direction runway. The aircraft landed on runway 22 and these lights are missing, no glass pieces for runway 04. There are no tire marks beyond the extremities of the runway.

Read the full report on the DGCA WEBSITE ..

If what the report has depicted is true and the aircraft stopped on the paved surface, it was a very close call for the passengers and crew. It is extremely difficult to stop the aircraft within 600m without experiencing high loads on the aircraft structure. The calculation is probably incorrect.A cursory cross check of the data presented in the investigation report reveals the poor investigative skills and analysis. This occurrence qualifies as a serious incident and would need to be investigated by the Aircraft Investigation Bureau. DGCA has downgraded the occurrence and taken over 3 times the time as taken for an accident to conclude this incident report.

Letter to the DG


The safety culture survey 2020 conducted by Safety Matters, the NGO on Safety has highlighted the investigation by the state as a major concern. This report is an example of poor investigation which has diluted the occurrence and failed to draw learnings from it. No doubt that the crew must have aborted the landing in the aircraft state of speed and rate of descent at various mandatory points of decision making on an approach, there was a need to determine the state of the crew and their decision making which prevented them from taking the safer choice of an aborted landing an attempting again.


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