An Air India Express flight from Dubai trying to land in torrential rain with 190 people on board overshot the tabletop runway at Kozhikode’s Calicut International Airport on Friday and went 35 feet down a slope at 7.41pm, killing at least 17, in a chilling reminder of the 2010 crash at Mangalore’s table-top airport. The aircraft, a Boeing 737, broke in two. The deceased include the flight commander, Deepak V Sathe, and co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar.
According to flight tracking sites, the aircraft made two attempts to land in heavy rain before touching down the third time, leading to the accident. The flight was part of the Vande Bharat repatriation mission and most passengers were stranded non-resident Keralites returning home from the UAE following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sources said at the time of the third attempted landing the wind speed was 15 knots and there was heavy rain. The aircraft was high on approach, possibly due to strong tailwinds. It landed beyond the touchdown point on the runway, which was why it failed to stop in time.
The nose of the aircraft and the cockpit area were completely destroyed and the fuselage had broken into two pieces. Many passengers suffered serious injuries, including to the head and fractures, due to the crash impact. Fortunately, the plane did not burst into flames.
Aviation minister H S Puri said in a series of tweets: “Unfortunately, 16 people have lost their lives.
I offer my heartfelt condolences to their next of kin and pray for speedy recovery of the injured… The flight… overshot the runway in rainy conditions and went down 35 feet into a slope before breaking up into two pieces. A formal enquiry will be conducted by Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).
A meeting of the special crisis management group ended close to Friday midnight. Top officials of various aviation authorities — like AAI, DGCA, AAIB, AI and AI Express — left the aviation ministry HQ to take special flights to Calicut. “Two investigation teams of professionals from AI, AAI and AAIB will leave for Kozhikode at 2 am and 5 am (Saturday). Everyone has now been rescued from the aircraft. Rescue operations are now complete,” Puri said.
Firefighting personnel and hundreds of rescue workers immediately reached the airport and the injured were taken to government medical colleges in Kozhikode and Malappuram and private hospitals in Kozhikode and Kondotty.
State health minister K K Shailaja said many passengers had serious injuries. According to Air India, there were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew on board the aircraft. It is the first major accident at Calicut International Airport in its 32-year history.
LANDING ON A TABLETOP RUNWAY Runways located in high altitude with one of both ends adjacent to a drop are known as tabletop runways. Such runways create the optical illusion of being at the same level as the plains below when a pilot comes in for a landing. The incident brought back the nightmares of the May 22, 2010, crash of Air India Express flight IX 812 at Mangaluru International Airport.
The plane slipped off the tabletop runway, fell off the cliff and burst into flames killing 158 passengers. Shah asks NDRF to assist the rescue efforts Union Home Minister Amit Shah directed the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on Friday night to rush to the spot at Kerala’s Kozhikode to assist in the rescue-and-relief operations. “Distressed to learn about the tragic accident of Air India Express aircraft in Kozhikode, Kerala.
Have instructed NDRF to reach the site at the earliest and assist with the rescue operations,” Shah tweeted. “We must remember that it is a tabletop runway at Kozhikode.
There seems to have been injuries among all the passengers and some of them are unconscious. An NDRF team has been rushed to the spot and should be reaching any time there to join search &rescue operation,” said NDRF DG SN Pradhan. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, a Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad, also tweeted his condolences.
Kerala CM asked all government agencies to engage in rescue operations
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed his shock at the tragic mishap.
The CM asked all government agencies to engage in rescue operations using all government facilities.
The CM has deputed A C Moideen, minister for local bodies, to coordinate the rescue operations. AC Moideen has already left for Karipur from Thrissur.
CM also has deputed an IG of Police to oversee the rescue operation. Fire and Rescue teams of two district’s also have been engaged.
Health authorities have been instructed to provide all possible medical aid to save lives of victims.
President Kovind, Kerala Governor and Union Minister offer condolences
“Deeply distressed to hear about tragic plane crash of Air India Express flight at Kozhikode, Kerala. Spoke to Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and inquired about the situation. Thoughts and prayers with affected passengers, crew members and their families”, said President Ram Nath Kovind.
“My heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives following the crashlanding of Air India Express flight at Karipur. My prayers for the speedy recovery of those injured”, Kerala Arif Mohammed Khan said.
“It’s a sad and unfortunate incident. Perhaps, because of heavy rain in Calicut, it seems the pilot could not land and then in second attempt he landed but there was hard landing, after which aircraft skid off beyond runway,” MoS MEA V Muraleedharan said while reacting on the plane crash incident.
Among those died, six bodies have been identified.
- Pilot Deepak Vasanth Sathe.
- co-pilot Akhilesh.
- C P Rajeevan (61), Cherikka Parambil, Kokkallur, Kozhikode.
- Sharafudheen (35), Mele Maruthakottil, Kunnamangalam, Pilasserry, Kozhikode.
- Saheer Sayeed (38), Thekkankurur, Tirur, Malapuram.
- Mohammad Riyas VP (23), Chalavara. Palakkad.
Of the 11 deaths, 5 bodies are at Kozhikode medical college hospital (KMCH) 3 at Aster Mims which include that of Pilot and co-pilot , two at Baby memorial hospital and one body at Crescent hospital Feroke. A 3/4 year girl’s mortal remains is also at Aster Mims.
19 injured passengers are at KMCH, 14 at Baby memorial, 33 injured at Aster MIMS, 4 at Meitra hospital and 4 at Crescent hospital Feroke. (end)
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