Kozhikode plane crash: No question over competence of pilots, says Puri

Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot the runway at Kozhikode airport and went down 35 feet into a slope before breaking up into two pieces. Photo: Twitter
Pilots operating the Air India Express aircraft which crashed at the Kozhikode airport on Friday were very experienced, said civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

The captain of the aircraft Deepak Sathe, a fighter pilot with Indian Air Force had 10,000 hours of flying experience on the Boeing 737 aircraft. Out of that he flew 6,662 hours as commander.

Sathe had landed on the challenging air field of Calicut 27 times including more than 10 times this year itself, executives of the airline said.

The co-pilot, Akhilesh Kumar who was 32 years old also had experience of 1,728 hours of flying with the 737 aircraft.

 “We had a very accomplished, experienced, decorated person in command of the aircraft. There is absolutely no doubt over their competence,” minister Puri said.

The Calicut tabletop airport in Kerala, the site of the accident involving Air India Express aircraft is not among the easiest to operate flights.

A tabletop airport is one where the runway is on the top of a hill with one or both ends adjacent to a steep elevation, which drops into a gorge. The peculiar topography of the airport makes its runway a short one. Not only that, the concerned airport has been surrounded by other safety concerns too.

According to data from aircraft tracking website Flightradar 24, the aircraft performed a ‘go-around’ manoeuvre twice before it attempted to land at the airport, which resulted in the plane skidding off the runway.

A go-around is an aborted landing of an aircraft that is on final approach. A go-around can either be initiated by the pilot flying or requested by air traffic control for various reasons, like unstabilised approach, bad weather, and obstruction on the runway.

Air India Express will pay an interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased passengers who were 12 years and above and Rs 500,000 to passengers below 12 years of age as immediate relief, the airline said in a statement.

In addition, the airline will pay Rs 200,000 to critically injured passengers and Rs 50,000 to passengers who were injured in the crash.

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