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Shortage of fuel must have compelled AI Express flight land on runway 10 : Aviation Expert

Kozhikode: A risky-but-compulsive landing on runway 10 by the Air India Express flight with 191 passengers on board, which is from the Arabian sea side, had resulted in it succumb to a tail-wind that pushed it ahead of the runway missing the compulsory touch-down point and thereby go short of the runway resulting in getting offshoot from it and falling nearly 120 feet (35 meters) down the valley and cracking into two parts in its belly.

But since the fuel in its belly must have been exhausted with the remaining in the wings of the carrier, which were seen in-tact after the off-shoot.

Had there been some fuel in the belly or had either of its wings broke or wrecked in the impact, there could have been a heavy explosion as that happened in Mangalore a few years ago, Aviation expert point out.

According to an expert in air traffic operations for the past four decades and having a thorough knowledge of the intricacies of the table-top airport in Karipur – the Calicut International Airport (CCJ) where an Air India Express aircraft fell off its runway into the valley killing at least 18 passengers and injuring, some seriously, about 171 on Friday night.

“The shortage in fuel storage of the heavy-loaded aircraft, after a 20-minute hold on air, must have forced the pilots try landing on runway 10, but an unexpected tail wind coupled with heavy rains pushed the carrier ahead on the runway shortening its path ahead from the touchdown point and ultimately off-shooting from the runway, the expert felt.

As I understand from my sources, the flight had attempted landing first on runway 28 but a poor visibility made them revert back to the air and hold on awaiting visibility. The visibility required to land on runway 28, which is technically termed as `head-wind landing’ and the most preferred in bad weather conditions, is 2400 meters.

But, while attempting this, the visibility is said to have declined to 2000 which made it fly back to the air and hold on there for about 20 minutes, he said.

But, with 191 souls (technical term souls include infants, which will not be counted as passengers, per se) and with heavy load of baggage as the flight is a repatriation carrier from the Middle East under Vande Bharat mission , the aircraft must not have had filled its full fuel capacity to minimise overall load of the aircraft, he said.

The shortage of fuel in mind must have forced the pilots to decide to attempt an otherwise-not preferred runway 10. “They can no more float around in air on hold as they are supposed to retain fuel to reach the next nearest airport in case of emergency.

But a tail wind that pushed the carrier ahead missed its touch down point at 900 leading to nearly 1400 or so and offshoot off the runway for want of shortage in path coupled with the tail wind that must have blown from behind the sea side”, he observed.

It is very rare that runway 10 is used in bad weather conditions and in this case it should have been the fuel compulsions that made the pilot opt for that. But unfortunately, the tail wind made things bad and the bad visibility on account of the heavy showers worsened the condition on the runway, he added.

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