Panel likely to submit report on status of safety measures next month
A decision to resume the operation of wide-bodied aircraft at the Calicut International Airport is likely to be taken only after a high-level panel of the Ministry of Civil Aviation submits its report on the corrective measures adopted based on the recommendations of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) which probed the Air India Express crash last August.
The panel, headed by Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal, was set up in September to look into the status of the recommendations of the AAIB, which had submitted its report. Discussions on the corrective measures are going on and the panel will submit its report next month, sources said.
The operation of wide-bodied aircraft was suspended after the Boeing 737-800 flight skidded off the tabletop runway and plunged into a gorge on August 7 last year. The accident claimed the lives of 21 persons including the pilots and seriously injured 78 others.
Some major recommendations of the AAIB were the proper maintenance of Runway End Safety Areas (RESA) to limit the consequences when flights overrun the end of the runway, widening of the airport perimeter road, installation of an approach radar to provide lateral and vertical guidance to the pilot for landing, runway visual range system to enhance accuracy of visibility and runway centre line lights, and also a Runway Overrun Awareness and Alerting System.
This apart, the AAIB also recommended simulator training, crew resource management and training on aircraft for Air India Express pilots among other things.
However, sources said that even after the high-level panel submitted the report, an extensive political pressure would be required to resume the operation of wide-bodied aircraft. One of the reasons cited is that the length of the runway is 2,700 meters while the RESA is 240 metres.
Besides, the runway strip was only 75 metres on both sides as against the mandatory 150 m stipulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The operation of wide-bodied aircraft had been banned at the Calicut airport from May 2015 after the Court of Inquiry report on the Air India Express Boeing 737 crash in Mangaluru in May 2010.
But then, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had given a No Objection Certificate to Saudi Arabian Airlines in 2018 and Emirates and Air India later to operate wide-bodied aircraft with stringent conditions after the airline companies submitted reports on safety assessment and mitigation measures to ensure the safety of Code E aircraft operations.
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