Kozhikode AI Express Crash: Expert committee yet to submit crash report despite deadline extensions

The expert committee’s report is crucial for the Aviation Ministry to make decisions such as permitting large aeroplanes to land at Karipur Airport
Wreckage of Air India Express IX-1344 near Karipur Airport in Malappuram, Kozhikode
Wreckage of Air India Express IX-1344 near Karipur Airport in Malappuram, KozhikodeTwitter

Despite the multiple deadline extensions, the expert committee appointed by the Union Civil Aviation Ministry, is yet to submit the final report on the cause behind the Air India Express crash in Kozhikode on August 7, 2020. The committee’s findings are crucial as they would help the Aviation Ministry to make decisions.

Reportedly, the Union Aviation Ministry in August 2020, gave the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) three months to submit the report on the crash. However, the committee did not meet the first deadline. Following this, the Ministry gave a two-month extension and asked the committee to submit the final report by January. However, there was another delay in submitting the report, and this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Ministry released an order in this regard.

“Due to Covid-19 pandemic, there is a delay being experienced in the Test Reports of components, and an extension of two months has been granted for submission of the draft final report of the investigation into VT-AXH accident,” the order said.

According to the latest deadline extension, the committee should have submitted the report by March, but so far, no report has been submitted. The Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has also not commented on the delay in submitting the report. The expert committee’s report is important as it will help the Union Ministry make important decisions such as permitting large flights to Karipur Airport in Kozhikode. After the Air India Express Crash, the Ministry put a suspension on large aeroplanes from landing at Karipur airport. This has affected the cargo exports from Karipur airport.

On the rainy night of August 7 2020, the Dubai-Kozhikode AI Express flight IX-1344 carrying 190 passengers, skidded off the Karipur airport tabletop runway and fell into a gorge. On crashing, the Boeing 737 aircraft’s fuselage split into two sections. The crash killed 21 people including, the pilot and co-pilot and left 100 passengers injured. The flight was part of the Vande Bharat Mission, which was bringing back Indian nationals from Dubai to Kerala during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Karipur airport’s tabletop runway can handle Boeing 737 flights but there is very little margin for error. If the pilot doesn’t land a plane at a fixed spot on the runway, the plane can overshoot the runway and crash. The same thing happened with IX-1344. The plane reached the airport on time. It was raining and it isn’t easy to land an aircraft in such conditions. The pilot tried landing the plane from one side of the runway (runway 28) but aborted it twice due to tailwind. The pilot circled the aircraft and tried landing it again but this time from the other end of the runway (runway 10). However, when the aircraft touched the runway, it landed 1km away from the point of landing. Despite trying to abort landing for the third time, the plane overshot the runway and fell into the gorge.

Nine years ago, a safety advisory committee constituted by the then Civil Aviation Ministry, issued a warning against the Karipur Airport runway. The committee said that the runway is unsafe and should not be used for landing during wet conditions.

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