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Why Landings Are Dangerous On Kozhikode’s Tabletop Runway, Subsequent To Gorges


Plane Crash in Kozhikode: There were 174 passengers, 10 infants on board.

New Delhi:

Shortly after an Air India Express plane with 190 on board skidded off the runway in Kerala’s Kozhikode and split into pieces, a top expert said he had predicted a disaster at the tabletop runway that is surrounded by deep gorges. Flight radar 24 indicated the aircraft made two attempts to land.

There were 174 passengers, 10 infants on board. At least 15 people were killed including two pilots of Flight IX 1344, the police said.

The Boeing 737 plane, after landing on Runway 10, “continued running to the end of the runway and fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces”, said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in a statement.

Air Safety expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan said he had detailed in a report around nine years ago that Calicut (now Kozhikode) airport was not safe for landings.

Of the four airports in Kerala, the Kozhikode airport has the shortest runway. The runway has suffered serious damage in incessant rain in the past.

“The runway has a steep downslope, no safety area. They were warned nine years back and given proof but they continued to operate and declared the airport safe,” Captain Ranganathan said, claiming he had predicted a disaster in 2020 in some airfields and Kozhikode was among them.

“If there are casualties, then it is murder, a criminal offence,” he added.

The plane, a next-generation Boeing 737, overshot the runway that was slick with rain, slid down and broke into pieces.

It is a tabletop runway, located on the top of a plateau or hill with one or both ends adjacent to a steep precipice which drops into a deep gorge.

“There are 200-feet deep gorges on both sides of the tarmac. It is a very steep downslope. Airlines have been operating blindly there,” said Captain Ranganathan.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who represents Thiruvananthapuram, said the airport was “by no means a small one” and handled a considerable number of international flights.

“It has a long runway. It is not a small airport or close to the edge of the runaway,” Mr Tharoor said, commenting that the disaster took place because of extreme weather conditions, including severe rain and high-velocity winds.