An Air India Express flight with 190 people on board skidded off a runway, leaving more than a dozen people dead. Abdul Karim, a senior Kerala state police officer, said the dead included one of the pilots. He said at least 15 of the injured were in critical condition, and that rescue operations were over. On the landing, the aircraft split in two but no fire was reported on the Boeing 737 aircraft after it landed. Rajiv Jain, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Ministry, said the plane flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in the state of Kerala in southern India, it took heavy rain in southern India and left at least 16 people dead and 123 injured.
Officials said It was a repatriation flight carrying Indian citizens back to the country. Regular commercial flights have been halted in India because of the coronavirus outbreak. And there were 174 adult passengers, 10 infants, two pilots, and four cabin crew onboard the aircraft. Amitabh Kant, who heads the government’s planning commission, said the runway is on a hilltop with deep gorges on either side, making it difficult to land. And he also said “The incident happened because of heavy rains and poor visibility. This is truly devastating.”
Kozhikode’s 9,350-foot (2,850-meter) runway is on a flat hilltop with deep gorges on either side ending in a 112-foot (34-meter) drop.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep S. Puri said that the flight “overshot the runway in rainy conditions and went down” the slope, breaking into two pieces upon impact. Also, an inquiry will be conducted by the ministry’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, he said. According to Harro Ranter, chief executive of the Aviation Safety Network online database, the runway end safety area meets United Nations international civil aviation requirements, but the U.N. agency recommends a buffer that is 492 feet (150 meters) (492 feet) longer than what exists at Kozhikode airport.
Mark Martin, Dubai-based aviation consultant said that while it was too early to determine the cause of the crash, annual monsoon conditions appeared to be a factor. “Low visibility, wet runway, low cloud base, all leading to very poor braking action is what looks like led to where we are at the moment with this crash.” He also mentioned that calling for the European Aviation Safety Agency and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to assist with the Indian government’s investigation.
The President of India Rashtrapati Bhavan also tweeted about the incident “Deeply distressed to hear about the tragic plane crash of Air India Express flight at Kozhikode, Kerala,” his statement read. “Spoke to @KeralaGovernor Shri Arif Mohammed Khan and inquired about the situation. Thoughts and prayers with affected passengers, crew members, and their families.“
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode,” and that he had spoken to Kerala’s top elected official.
It was on Nov. 12, 1996, the worst air disaster in India, when a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight collided midair with a Kazakhastan Airlines Flight near Charki Dadri in Haryana state, killing all 349 on board the two planes. This is a similar tragedy to Friday’s was narrowly avoided at the same airport a year ago when an Air India Express flight suffered a tail strike upon landing.