Probe Ordered into Mangalore Air Crash: Patel

Probe ordered into Mangalore air crash: Patel

Mangalore, May 22 (IANS) Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel Saturday said that a probe had been ordered into the plane crash at Mangalore airport and that it was premature to ascertain the actual cause for the accident that claimed 159 lives.

"Directorate General of Civil Aviation has already ordered an inquiry. Air India has constituted a team headed by executive director operations to take all necessary steps to establish circumstances, including collection of data pertaining to the accident. The team would assist the DGCA in inquiry into the accident," Patel told reporters here.

Patel, who reached the accident site in the afternoon, said that both the pilots at the helm of the aircraft were senior, highly experienced and had made previous landings at the Mangalore airport.

The commander, Z. Glusica, a British national of Serbian origin with over 10,200 hours of flying experience, had flown in and out of Mangalore airport at least 19 times, while copilot H.S. Ahluwalia had operated 66 times from the same airport.

He added that the aircraft was new and had been acquired at the end of 2007. "It was hardly two-and-a-half years old... and this aircraft has no defect or malfunction," he said.

"These are preliminary observations. There will be a detailed inquiry," he said.

The Air India Express flight 812 flying in from Dubai crashed early Saturday while landing at Mangalore's "table top" airport surrounded by deep gorges. It erupted in flames when it overshot the runway and plunged down a cliff.

The plane had 166 passengers, including 19 children, four infants and six crew members.

Patel said that the Mangalore airport has a limited spill-over area after the short runway.

"Because the spill-over area was limited, it (the aircraft) went off a cliff," he said.

"The plane went into the spill-over area, hit the localiser, a wing broke there and the aircraft plunged into the valley 200-300 metre deep," he said, adding that the plane did not catch fire immediately.

The minister said the length of the runway had been increased from 6,000 feet to 8,000 feet to factor in landing of bigger aircraft.

He said the aircraft black box, which recordS flight information, would be recovered as the entire wreckage had been found.

Patel also brushed aside suggestions that airport safety norms were defied.

"India has had a long unblemished record for several years. Unfortunately, this incident has saddened all of us and we are deeply shocked and pained," the minister said. "If an airport is deemed unsafe, there is no way we one can permit operations there."

About the operations to recover and identify bodies, he said that as the bodies were badly burnt, it would take some time for health authorities to identify the victims and hand them over to their next of kin.

Patel added that since India is a signatory to the 1999 Montreal convention, the families of those who had died would be paid up to $160,000. The injured would also be given suitable compensation and their treatment would be paid for by the airline.

Praful Patel to brief PM on crash

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been monitoring the Air India crash at Mangalore since morning, will be briefed about the search and rescue operations by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel later in the evening.

Patel, who went to Mangalore Saturday morning soon after crash, will fly be back to the capital and also order an inquiry into the mishap, officials said. A priliminary inquiry has already been ordered by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

The prime minister condoled the loss of lives in the air crash and ordered compensation of Rs.200,000 for the families of the dead and Rs.50,000 for the injured.

He also postponed an event scheduled at his official residence Saturday evening to celebrate his government's first year in office during its second tenure.

At least 159 people were killed when an Air India Express Boeing 737 with 166 passengers and crew flying from Dubai overshot the runway while landing at the Mangalore airport and turned into a ball of fire as it crashed into a forested ravine.

Boeing, US aviation officials to assist Air India crash probe

Officials from Boeing and the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will visit India to provide technical assistance to investigators after an Air India Express Boeing 737 crashed in Mangalore killing 159 people, officials said.

Officials in the civil aviation ministry here said it was obligatory for NTSB to assist in air crash investigations in foreign countries if the aircraft in question, or a part, is made in the US, has the country's registry, or was deployed by an American operator.

The agency has so far participated in 40 overseas investigations in the past two years, including the one at Tripoli May 12 that killed 103 people, with one child miraculously escaping.

That aircraft was a Airbus A330-200 fitted with the US-made General Electric engines.

"Boeing is sending a team to provide technical assistance to the investigation at the invitation of the Indian authorities," the company said in a statement soon after the news of the crash spread.

The aircraft flown by Air India Express from Dubai to Mangalore that crashed was a two-and-a-half-year-old Boeing 737-800. It carried 166 people, including 19 children and four infants.

This specific make of the aircraft entered into service in 1998 with a capacity for 162 passengers in a two-class layout, or 189 in one class.

Saturday's crash took place at the Bajpe airstrip, about 30 km from Mangalore -- a hilly area that is considered one of the most difficult airports to take off and land.

"The aircraft touched down on runway 24 slightly beyond the touchdown zone, overshot the runway and went into the valley beyond the runway," the civil aviation ministry said.

Expat commanders on Indian flights matter of concern: BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Saturday said it would wait for the probe report into the Mangalore air crash before making a comment but added that expatriate commanders operating Indian aircraft was an issue of concern.

"We will wait for the DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation) inquiry into reasons for the accident," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy told reporters here.

Speaking from his experience as a trained pilot and as a former civil aviation minister, Rudy cited possible technical errors for the crash.

"All these signs and survivors' stories lead it (crash) to be a human error, but we will wait till the comprehensive technical report is seen," he said.

"It is a matter of concern that most of our commanders are expatriates and there is an issue of unfamiliarity of terrain, language etc," he said.

Expressing the BJP's condolences at the tragedy, Rudy said party president Nitin Gadkari, parliamentary party chairman L.K. Advani, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had expressed their sympathies with the bereaved families.

At least 159 people were killed when Air India Express flight 812 flying in from Dubai crashed while landing at the Mangalore airport and burst into flames as it overshot the touchdown zone and rolled down a cliff.

Mangalore Plane Crash - Complete Coverage : Click Here


Comment on this article

  • rohan rebello, mangalore

    Tue, May 25 2010

    On postmorterm on the crash it may be found that fire personel had to reach the crash site by road travelling over 8 KMS all round. There seems to be no direct approach road from the runway above to the crash site. This would have reduced the casualties considerably. Should not the DGCA be held accountable for giving the Airport a certificate of Operation. I and many others are looking at legal options.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Ken, Mangalore

    Mon, May 24 2010

    How is anyone in the govt and authorities going to explain the article below on PILs issued by this NGO on insufficient safety and disaster recovery measures at the new airport?

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Lloyd Colaco, Mangalore

    Sun, May 23 2010

    Please shift the Airport to Thanner Bhavi (panambur side)

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Vera Alvares, Mumbai

    Sat, May 22 2010

    Sad and shocking incident, was it waiting to happen? No amount of condolences can mitigate the sorrow of the families that have lost their loved ones so tragically...May their sould rest in peace!
    My experience is that the touch down at Mangalore airport is as thrilling as it is scary- suddenly the ground runs out from below you..

    All the investigations at high levels cannot bring the dead to life but can avert future tragedies of this kind. However why are the expatriate commanders in India work under different rules and regulations? Why are they pampered, we have sufficient hard-working Indians...This itself can lead to a lax attitude on the part of the pilots whose fatigue factor is high all the time.

    Secondly why were the PILs filed by the Mangalore NGO that the new runway fails to conform to safety standards disregarded by the authorities?
    Speaking about the length of the runway, as this aircraft touched the turmac slightly beyond the usual line,it is implied that the pilots may have found it difficult to bring it to a halt before the runway ended.
    So with Pilot fatigue and a short runway is it prudent to out the lives of hundreds of passengers at risk with every flight that lands in Mangalore?

    Last of all, the euphoria of being on the international map with the opening of the new terminal/runway left no space or thought for questioning the safety measures at the airport. We were just too delirious that the Gulfies could now fly straight home to Mangalore..

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Praveen, Mangalore

    Sat, May 22 2010

    Very sad for the families.

    This is a ridiculous pilot error and landing in the middle of a runway is not part of the rules.

    A set of mistakes have happened here and it was costly and instead of covering the mistake, let us learn from the mistakes and make sure that the new runway has latest technology warning and safety systems in place to warn the approaching aircraft of possible issues.

    Also, was A320 type ILS (Instrument Landing System) not mandatory at such a dangerous airport?

    What about weather conditions - does the airport support latest weather warning and guidance systems.

    Keep in mind this is a "one landing try" only runway given the fact that on 3 sides there is a hilly terrain.

    Please give us more facts and give us solutions.

    This should not happen in any place in the world and it is very sad.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • abdul sattar habibullah, belapu/Sharjah

    Sat, May 22 2010

    Such a painful tragedy make a great shock to us.We are making dua for the victims who lost thier lives in this accident. ALLAH WILL GIVE A SABR TO the dependent and Jannat for the deceased. So we expariates request from the Hon'ble UPA Chair Person and Hon'ble Prime Minister to enquire the matter and ordered concerned authority to make the expansion of the runway.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse


    Sat, May 22 2010

    Helicopters and fighter planes have emergency exit seats, just push the button and you are in air with parachute. Why cant we have same arrangement in planes for all passengers keeping control button in pilot hands? Whenever everyone is ready, pilot can push the button and all passengers with para ...

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse


Title : Probe Ordered into Mangalore Air Crash: Patel


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