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The descent into tragedy in Calicut | India News


MUMBAI: For the Air India Express flight that crashed in Calicut on Friday, problems appear to have started during the descent with heavy rain, with difficulty detecting the runway from the cabin.
What followed was a series of factors that caused the pilots to choose to land in place with unfavorable tailwinds, landing on a wet runway, probably facing problems with the braking action of the aircraft, all of which caused the aircraft to Boeing 737 will overshoot the tabletop runway to accelerate to excessive speed. gorge, crashes and kills 18 people.
It got off to a good start when AIX pilots flew over the runway to line up for landing on runway 28, according to data from flightradar24, a live flight tracking app. The rule is to land a plane against the wind and runway 28 had headwinds, favorable for a safe landing. But during the descent, the pilots seem to have encountered their first problem with the weather. The aviation weather report (called METAR, issued every 30 minutes) for that time showed few light clouds at 300 feet. “The pilots probably couldn’t see runway 28 from their cockpit when the aircraft descended to 265 feet above ground level. For Calicut airport, this is the height at which pilots have to interrupt descent to land and make a turn if the runway is not in sight, ” said a senior commander, requesting anonymity.
The pilots then decided to attempt an approach and land from the opposite end, that is to say on runway 10. They must request permission from the air traffic controller, who in turn consults METAR to know the speed and direction of the wind on the runway that pilots have searched. permission to land. “If the runway has tailwinds of 15 knots or more, it is not considered safe for landing,” said a senior commander. Other pilots said a tailwind of more than 10 kt for a table runway like Calicut should be considered unsafe for landing. The METAR report for the time of the accident showed a wind speed of 12 kt, from “direction 260”. It basically translates to an 11 kt tailwind for runway 10. But the pilots spoke about possible inaccuracies in the METAR report. For example: In August 2017, a SpiceJet aircraft ran off the runway during landing at Calicut Airport. The investigation report noted that METAR showed zero winds at the time of the incident, but the flight crew experienced winds of more than 12-15 kt. “From the position of the wreckage, it appears that the aircraft landed with tailwinds that were stronger than METAR reported,” said an examiner for the B737 aircraft.
There are other crucial questions. Photographs of the wreckage show the wings of the plane with the speed brakes not deployed. Said the commander-in-chief: “We don’t know what happened after the landing. But the AIX commander seems to have turned off the engines. After all, he was an IAF pilot, he would have had the presence of mind to shut down the engine and prevent a possible fire after impact. ”
Another factor that several pilots spoke about was “aquaplaning”, which refers to a condition in which a layer of water accumulates between the plane’s wheel and the runway surface, causing the loss of braking action. . “Aside from hydroplaning, if there are also significant rubber deposits from previous touchdowns, then the braking action would be really bad,” said the examiner. The Calicut airport runway also has a bit of a bulge towards its midsection. “So a landing plane gains momentum after crossing the middle section of the runway,” he added. Pilot fatigue is another crucial aspect that needs to be studied, the AIX pilots said.
Despite all these factors, what could still have saved the day is EMAS or the engineering materials detention system. It is a bed of engineering materials built at the end of a runway that stops an aircraft from overshooting when the wheels hit its flexible surface. It was one of the recommendations made for the runways, after the 2010 Mangalore plane crash that killed 158 people. “But the Airports Authority of India seems to have seen it as an unnecessary expense,” added the examiner.
What could still have saved the day is EMAS or the Engineering Material Detention System – an engineering bed
material at the end of a runway to stop an aircraft that is overshot. It was one of the recommendations made for tabletop runways after the Mangalore crash in 2010. “But AAI seems to have viewed it as an unnecessary expense,” said one examiner.

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