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Kozhikode airport rescue team was not familiar with Boeing 737: Crash probe

Report on crash that killed 21 people last year recommends Airport Authority of India improve training of airport rescue and firefighting team.

air india express | AAI | DGCA

Aneesh Phadnis  |  Mumbai 

air india, plane crash, Kozhikode
Mangled remains of an Air India Express flight, en route from Dubai, after it skidded off the runway while landing on Friday night, at Karippur in Kozhikode

The two pilots flying Boeing 737 were extricated dead an hour after the plane crashed in Kerala’s Kozhikode as the airport rescue and firefighting (ARFF) team was unfamiliar with the aircraft, an investigation has said. The pilots, whose error has been blamed for the crash, and 19 others were killed when the aircraft hit a gorge after a runway overrun on August 7, 2020. The aircraft was returning from Dubai and it carried 184 passengers. The investigation report of the August 7, 2020 crash was released by Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau Director General Aurobindo Handa on Saturday. It has recommended the airline and Airport Authority of India (AAI) to improve their training and suggested better maintenance of simulators and runway-end safety areas at airports to prevent further accidents. “The ARRF crew at Kozhikode was not familiar with the type of aircraft which resulted in poorly coordinated rescue operations and delayed evacuation of the pilots from the cockpit,” the investigation report noted.

The pilot in command was pulled out of the cockpit by a CISF inspector while the co-pilot was removed by an unknown person and the ARRF personnel were not present during the rescue of pilots, it said. The investigation team has recommended that must ensure aircraft-familiarisation training is provided to all ARRF crew within a defined timeline, in addition to recurrent training as per existing requirements. It has also suggested better upkeep and maintenance of the runway end safety area which can help to arrest the speed of an aircraft in case of an overrun. While the investigation concluded that the captain carried out an unstabilised approach and ignored the co-pilot’s call for a go-around, it also pointed a finger at management for its lack of supervision in training, operations and safety practices. This, it said, has resulted in repeated human error accidents. It has called upon the airline to improve its training especially for landing on wet runway in tail wind conditions and promote assertiveness of the first officer to take over control and initiate a go around in case the captain fails to respond. The civil aviation regulator has been asked to revise its regulations on flight data monitoring and introduce periodic surveillance of flights at critical and table top airports including ‘red eye’ flights. It has also suggested the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to study the feasibility of a child restraint system for safety of children and infants on board an aircraft. Out of the ten infants on board the aircraft, three sustained fatal injuries, three had serious injuries and four escaped unhurt, the report noted. The report has called for an installation of approach radar. “Kozhikode airport is amongst the ten busiest airports in India, has hilly terrain and experiences extended adverse weather conditions. Therefore it is recommended for better guidance to the aircraft approach radar be installed at the airport,” it said.

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First Published: Sun, September 12 2021. 12:25 IST