Air India crash: Pilot error or dangerous Mangalore airport?
'This was no accident,' says an environmental group that sued to stop construction of an additional runway at Mangalore International Airport, where an Air India Express plane crashed Saturday. The crash killed 158 passengers, but eight survived.
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Mangalore International Airport's hilltop landing field, and the authorities who oversaw its operations, are coming under scrutiny following the Air India Express plane crash Saturday that killed 158 passengers.
Air India Express Flight IX-812 from Dubai reportedly overshot the runway, touching down at the end of the landing strip, then veered into a concrete structure that clipped a wing off the plane before it plunged into a valley. Only eight survived out of 160 passengers and six crew. Air India Express is the budget airline under the government-operated national carrier, Air India.
Search continued for the plane's black box recorder on Sunday, reports Reuters. While local newspaper Hindustan Times today reports the black box found, the Times of India today reports that the black box has yet to be located but authorities have recovered the cockpit voice recorder.
The Times of India offers a complete list of those on the plane.
When the crash occurred the weather was clear, the jet was relatively new, and the airport had no previous flight accidents, leading officials to speculate pilot error. However, the airport itself has come under fire for more than a decade for its position on a hilltop plateau.
“This was no accident," the Environmental Support Group states in a press release, "but the direct result of deliberate failure of officials at the highest level in the Director General of Civil Aviation, Airports Authority of India, Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Government of Karnataka [administrations] for allowing this 2nd runway to be built in criminal negligence of applicable norms and standards. Such a strong charge is being made as the likelihood of this kind of a crash (the worst case scenario) was predicted.”
The Environment Support Group sued twice to stop the airport’s expansion, arguing that a newly built runway did not comply with national or international standards. The High Court dismissed the suits, and the Supreme Court in February 2003 dismissed "Environment Support Group and ors. vs. Union of India and ors."
"...No one in authority cared to listen to our fervent pleas," the ESG states. "This even when we demonstrated through a variety of representations that that the site chosen for expansion at Bajpe was surrounded by deep valleys on three sides of the runway and did not provide for emergency landing areas as required."
Union Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the pilots were highly experienced. "The pilot had 10,200 hours of flying experience. Of these, he had 7,000 hours as a pilot in command and had over 2,000 hours on a Boeing plane. He was also familiar with Mangalore airport and had flown in and out several times," Mr. Praful Patel is quoted in India's NDTV news.