Logistics

Calicut airport to be closed till 3 PM on Saturday: Sources

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on August 08, 2020 Published on August 08, 2020

The Calicut airport is to remain shut till 3 PM today as a result of the crash of the Air India Express Boeing 737 aircraft last night, sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Saturday morning.

 

“Aircraft will be diverted to either Thiruvananthapuram or other cities. A Notice to Air Men or NOTAM has been issued till 3 PM today. If they are able to clear the runway earlier, then the airport could resume operations sooner,” a senior DGCA official told the Hindu BusinessLine. Officials said it was still too early to say whether the Air India Express aircraft is a write off and that this is something which will be decided after the insurance team has done a survey of the aircraft.

Officials reach Kozhikode

Meanwhile, three AI Express aircraft have reached Kozhikode — the flight from Delhi is carrying investigating officers from DGCA and the Accident Air Investigation Board, the Chief Executive Officer of Air India Express and other officials of AI and AI Express.

The second aircraft came from Mumbai to Kozhikode carrying Angels of Air India and GO employees, who will coordinate and liaise with various agencies and provide support and assist families of those affected by the crash.

Another aircraft from Delhi carrying the Chairman and Managing Director and other senior AI officials too has also reached Calicut.

Major concerns

The crash of the Air India Express Boeing 737 aircraft on a repatriation flight from Dubai to Calicut again raises issues of how safe it is to fly into a table top airport which requires precision landing otherwise one runs the risk of a crash.

“Think of a runway built on an actual table so at each end there will be a drop. Hence the term table top,” explained a senior pilot with a private airline.

If an aircraft is not able to make a proper landing, it runs the risk of falling off the table top as there is no room left.

Questions are also being raised in some quarters on whether enough training specially of flying in rainy conditions was given to pilots before they were asked to start operating repatriation flights.

In July 2019, Captain PP Singh, Senior Vice-President, JetLite, had told the Hindu BusinessLine that pilots are trained to deal with extreme weather conditions, including rain and fog, and snow in winter.

He explained, “There are two major concerns for a pilot in rain. One is visibility, especially from the flight deck. Second is runway conditions because the runway becomes slippery. It is like a car. If you apply the brakes in the rainy season, because of less friction, it takes a car longer to stop. The system is the same for a plane.”

The cockpit windows have wipers but with rain falling and some wind hitting the aircraft as it comes into land, the wipers are not very effective. Also, pilots see the runway lights through a film of water, which could give them a slightly different perspective.

“Then there is the issue of the speed at which the aircraft is coming into land, especially in rain. To make an absolutely safe landing, the aircraft should touch down at the correct point, which is typically the first 3,000 feet of the runway. If the aircraft keeps floating and touches down further with extra speed, the plane does not want to touch down, it wants to float, it wants to keep flying,” explained Captain Singh

While some are questioning the lack of training of pilots because of the COVID lock down (as the country was in a complete lock down and no commercial flights operated for two months till May 25) DGCA officials and other pilots however point to long hours of flying that pilots in charge of the crashed aircraft had to show that they were experienced enough to fly.

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Published on August 08, 2020
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