At least 18 dead as Air India Express flight breaks up into two while landing at Calicut airport


    Casualties are expected as initial reports suggest that the aircraft skidded off the runway and has broken into two pieces.

    Air India Express plane coming from Dubai overshot the runway at Kozhikode airport in Kerala
    NEW DELHI | MUMBAI: An Air India Express Boeing 737 broke apart after going off the runway at Kozhikode airport in heavy rain late on Friday. About 18 people, including the two pilots, were killed, according to local officials.

    The Vande Bharat repatriation flight from Dubai was carrying 190 people, said the civil aviation ministry. They comprised 184 passengers, two pilots and four cabin attendants, it said. The accident took place at 7:41 pm, the ministry said. More than four hours after the crash, all the passengers were evacuated from the plane. Rain hampered rescue efforts.

    The plane made two unsuccessful attempts to land, thwarted by rain and strong winds, said people with knowledge of the matter. It made a hard landing on the third attempt but was unable to stay on the runway, nosediving into the adjacent valley.

    “The plane broke into two pieces but did not catch fire,” said an Air India official, who did not want to be identified.

    About 40 ambulances were pressed into service to rush the injured from the airport in Karipur to nearby hospitals. Some were transported in cabs. TV channels said more than 20 passengers were below five years of age. Some children got separated from families and appeals were made on TV, seeking help to reunite them with their kin.

    The plane slid off the edge of the tabletop runway, fell about 35 feet and broke up, recalling a similar accident in Mangalore in 2010. An Air India Express Boeing 737 from Dubai had skidded off the runway in that incident, bursting into flames and killing 158 people.

    Kerala has been coping with floods following heavy rain for the third year in a row. A landslip in Munnar left as many as 80 tea estate workers trapped, reports said.

    Rescue operations at the airport were being overseen by the state government. Home minister Amit Shah has ordered the National Disaster Response Force to assist in relief operations.

    “Have instructed Police and Fire Force to take urgent action in the wake of the plane crash at the Kozhikode International airport (CCJ) in Karipur. Have also directed the officials to make necessary arrangements for rescue and medical support,” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted.

    Pilots and officials said rain would have made braking difficult on a slippery runway.

    “While the reasons for the crash will only come after the inquiry, it seems the plane either would have touched down very fast and brakes would not have effectively worked upon landing due to rains or the flight would have touched the runway much ahead of the touchdown point and braking would not have been able to stop the aircraft due to heavy rains,” said a senior pilot, who did not want to be identified.

    The plane is only about 15 years old and well maintained, said a pilot who recently flew the aircraft.

    India has three tabletop airports--Kozhikode, Mangalore and Lengpui in Mizoram. They were among the critical airports listed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in 2011. The others are in Leh, Kullu, Shimla, Port Blair, Agartala, Jammu, Patna and Latur.

    In 2016, lawyer activist Yeshwanth Shenoy had filed a petition in a Kerala court flagging critical issues with the Kozhikode runway. NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant Friday tweeted that he had the runway extended to 6,000 feet from 4,500 feet when he was district collector.

    (Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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    34 Comments on this Story

    DR VIDYADHAR RANADE49 days ago
    Ds 49 days ago
    Maintenance cost cutting by AI. I never ever travel by AI even if it offers a free tkt.
    ArhaanGD49 days ago
    Sad incident, in India, why is only air India involved in crashes inspite of plenty private operators ? There is a phenomena called AQUAPLANING where the accumulated water creates a thin film over which the aircraft skids. Plz do not blame the experienced Air Force pilot who has thousands of landings to his credit. Our typical attitude is to wake up after the damage is done. Hope these incidents never happen in future.
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