It was a normal Saturday morning. Only thing that was making me feel different was my exam tensions (I am refering to my Semester exams in college). Suddenly news flashes came on the TV about a plane crash. I didnt take much notice at first, but then it was revealed that the flight (Air India Express flight 894) had took off from Dubai on the previous night and was to land at Manglore in karnataka state. However, guessing that there is a truth in the eyewitness accounts, the plane overshot the runway and couldnt stop at the end and skidded off down into the ravine below during slightly wet weather. The crash eventually killed 159 of the passengers leaving only 8 people surviving the tragedy. The dead include small children and even 4 babies. Some people lost a lot of family members, others lost friends and some others lost no one but still could not look away from the tragedy. Most of the victims were from Karnataka state or from nearby Kerala. In Dubai, not a lot of people had no connection at all to the flight since almost everyone had atleast a friend of a friend on the flight.
I failed to understand why such a tragedy took place. Why would someone build an airport on top of a hill? And, have a runway that had to have a perfect landing in order to survive? Why would a 3 year old plane crash? Is it pilot error? Was it some form of freak weather phenomenon that was to blame? Was the runway not in perfect working order? Only the crash investigation will reveal the truth (however long that may take, since it is conducted by an Indian government agency)
This is my India. The demands for airports outweigh the risks associated with constructing one that was too short. They claimed that the runway was fit for a Boeing 737 landing. But did it have a tolerance length to allow for a mistake? My research through the various news sites told that a few passengers to manglore over different flights over the years have had close calls. Can these statements be dismissed because they are not told by technical people? Or is there any truth in these claims. The airport has 2 runways. One of them has a length of 1600m. which is just enough for a boeing 737. The other runway is currently 2.45km long. Its lengthening to international air standards was just announced for construction 1 week before the crash.
Another interesting fact to note is that the airport has had a previous incident. in August of 1981, an Indian Airlines flight overshot the same runway in wet weather and crashed at the edge of the runway. Though everyone managed to escape unscathed, the aircraft was damaged beyond repair. The similarities in the two incidents are not ignorable.
Soon after, all the politicians (both from the state as well as the central governments alike) came forward to take political advantage of the situation by announcing help and canceling prearranged celebration parties and the like. Even Air India, in order to take back their lost image, was offering free air tickets to relatives from Dubai to go for the funerals in India. This sort of politicization of each and every situation (looking only at the voter base for the next elections) is what is not getting things done in India.
At present, the cockpit voice recorders have been found and been sent for analysis in Delhi.
No matter what the reason for the accident,159 lives were lost. May their souls rest in peace.
(images sourced from http://news.bbc.co.uk , other information from various news sites and wikipedia)