Operation of wide- bodied aircraft at Calicut airport soon

It had remained suspended after an AIE flight crashed in August last killing 21 people

Efforts are on to resume the operation of wide bodied aircraft at Calicut Airport with a nine-member committee chaired by Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola positively indicating about its resumption within two months

The operation of wide-bodied aircraft has been remaining suspended after an Air India Express flight skidded off the table-top runway and plunged into a gorge in August last. The crash killed 21 people including both pilots and seriously injured 75 passengers.

Sources said that a report had also suggested that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) install a Runway Visual Range (RVR) system to enable pilots for better landing and take off. The installation of the RVR system that measures visibility, background luminance, and light intensity to help the pilot navigate the runway during dense foggy conditions, has already been given high priority by the AAI at many airports.

Calicut Airport director R. Mahalingam said that AAI was committed to implement the recommendations of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) that went into the Air India Express accident on August 7, 2020.

“The authorities will be executing the projects in a time-bound manner,” he told The Hindu on Wednesday.

In fact, the AAI was permitted to resume the operation of wide- bodied aircraft in 2018 after it committed to the installation of a transmissometer for the RVR system. However, at the time of the accident, RVR instruments had not been installed at the airport . Now the AAIB has recommended that the Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) should also be installed as well.

However the works for installing the Runway Centre Line Lights, another recommendation, could be taken up only during next re-carpeting due in 2023- 24.

“Immediately taking up this work that involved digging the runway was infeasible as such a massive exercise would disturb the existing operations at the airport,” Mr. Mahalingam pointed out.

In its report, the AAIB has said that the need of installing centreline lights had been highlighted in the recommendations after the incidents of Air India Express at Mangalore in 2012 and Etihad Airways at Calicut in 2019. Based on the requests of airlines and recommendations of investigation reports, the AAI had agreed to install the Runway Centre Line Lights during the next re-carpeting.

Apart from installing an Approach Radar at Calicut airport, the AAIB also asked the DGCA to consider setting up a Runway Overrun Awareness and Alerting System (ROAAS) for operating turbojet aircraft.

The probable cause of the Air India crash, according to AAIB, was the non adherence to Standard Operating Procedures by the Pilot Flying (PF) who had continued an unstabilised approach and landed beyond the touchdown zone, half way down the runway, in spite of ‘go around’ call by Pilot Monitoring (PM).

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