9.4 C
Cumartesi, 20 Nisan 2024

India Plane Crash Kills 158 People


An Air India Express plane crashed at Mangalore airport in southern India Saturday morning after running off the end of the runway, with 158 of the 166 people on board now feared dead.


There were eight survivors, according to the Minister of Civil Aviation. The plane, arriving from Dubai, overshot the runway at the airport around 6:30 a.m. local time and burst into flames, Anup Srivastava, an Air India spokesman, said at a press conference. The plane broke into pieces and wreckage was scattered in a ravine.


Mr. Srivastava declined to comment on the cause of the crash. "We have regulatory authorities that will conduct investigations according to procedure," he said. "There will be an inquiry, and the reason will emerge." There was good visibility and light rain at the time of the crash, the worst in India in a decade.


While information from the scene remained sketchy, an international team of investigators is certain to look at whether the plane landed too far or too fast down the hilltop runway, and whether mechanical malfunctions of or other problems prevented the crew from braking in time. Boeing Co., which built the plane, and investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will participate in the probe.


Crashes involving runway overruns, dubbed "runway excursions" by safety experts, constitute the most common type of commercial-aircraft and business-jet crashes around the world. These kinds of accidents—almost always resulting from excessively fast and steep approaches to runways—have accounted for nearly 40% of all commercial accidents world-wide going back to the 1990s. While the majority don’t end in deaths, the overall number of such accidents often makes them the largest single cause of airline fatalities annually.


Despite global efforts by aircraft manufacturers, cockpit-instrument suppliers and safety experts to reduce the frequency of such accidents, the number of such accidents has remained relatively stable over the years. Runway excursions have been particularly difficult to counter in some Third World countries, where pilot training and airline tradition may not adequately stress the dangers of continuing improper approaches.


"An excursion normally isn’t a total surprise for the crew," according to James Burin, a senior official with the Flight Safety Foundation, a leading international air-safety advocacy group based in Alexandria, Va. The foundation has developed and distributed tens of thousands of videos and informational packets around the world to make pilots aware of the reasons planes veer off runways. But one of the nagging problems still contributing to runway accidents, according to safety experts, is lack of cockpit discipline.


Such missteps can be especially dangerous at airports that lack adequate safety buffer zones at the end of runways to slow down speeding airliners. That has been a special concern in many countries in Africa, where hundreds of residents around airports have been killed from planes zooming off runways and slamming into residential areas.


One of the issues investigators are expected to delve into in India is the size and makeup of the safety zone around the Mangalore strip. The Associated Press quoted a senior Indian aviation official saying that the safety area at the end of the accident runway was only about 300 feet, much smaller than recommended by international safety standards.


View Full Image


European Pressphoto Agency
        Firefighters try to put out the fire on the Air India plane. It overshot the runway while landing in the southern Indian city of Mangalore.
        But runway excursions and substandard safety areas aren’t restricted to Third World airports. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are two U.S. carriers that have experienced runway excursions on wet or snowy runways in recent years, with investigators later determining that the pilots should have opted to break off their approaches and go around for another landing attempt. Neither of those crashes ended in fatalities. A number of U.S. regional carriers also have been criticized by air-safety investigators for improper landings that ended in planes careening off runways.


It’s too early to draw definitive conclusions from the crash. But early reports indicated that the Boeing 737-800 veered off the hilltop runway, with survivors clambering out of the plane before fire engulfed the wreckage. A police spokesman said that rescue operations, including 25 fire-operation units and ambulances, were stationed at the site.


"This is a major calamity," said V.S. Acharya, home minister for the state of Karnataka, on CNN-IBN TV. Television pictures showed rescue workers struggling to deal with the wreckage in a small valley near the airport.


        India Faces Air-Safety Concerns India Real Time: Add Tragedy to Air India’s Woes Photos: At the Air India Crash Site The crash is believed to be the first major crash of an airliner in India since July 17, 2000, when an Alliance Air Boeing 737-200, an older model, crashed into houses during a second landing attempt at Patna, killing 51.


At the scene Saturday afternoon at an impromptu press conference, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the pilot appeared to have lost control of the plane. He said the weather during the landing was fine. The pilot reportedly had flown into the airport several times. He said all the crew on the plane had died. He said the Indian government will probe the cause of the accident and that the black box inflight recorder had yet to be recovered.


Mr. Patel also said the aircraft was one and a half years old.


Dubai and southern India have close ties because of the number of migrant workers who go from southern India to Dubai for work.


One survivor, interviewed in the hospital by NDTV, a New Delhi television channel, said the one of the plane’s tires had burst on landing and that passengers had little time to escape the plane before it burst into flames after crashing off the end of the runway.


"It was not smooth, the flight shook on landing," said the survivor, whose name was not given. "Our hands and feet caught fire."


Technology is available to help pilots avoid mistakes that end in runway overruns. Honeywell International Inc., for example, for years has marketed a safety system designed to alert cockpit crews if their plane is approaching a runway too fast or will touch down too far down the strip. European plane-maker Airbus has developed a different system designed to warn pilots if they won’t have enough room to safely stop their aircraft, based on runway conditions and other factors. Roughly four out of five commercial-aircraft excursions around the world occur during landings, with roughly half of those accident aircraft veering off the side of the strip and the rest barreling past the end.


One of the most dramatic runway excursions in recent years involved a TACA airlines Airbus A320 that skidded off a rain-soaked runway at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in May 2008, killing five people and injuring more than 30. The plane smashed into cars and buildings, but remained largely intact. A year earlier, Brazil’s TAM airlines lost an A320 during a runway excursion at Sao Paolo’s Congonhas Airport, killing more than 200 people, as the plane veered across a busy highway during rush hour, crashed into a gas station and exploded. Both of those airports were considered particularly challenging by pilots, because of relativly short runways and the lack of adequate safety areas if aircraft can’t stop in time.


Air India has been struggling to overcome the global recession, payments for new aircraft, an entrenched staff, a botched merger and increasing competition from private carriers. In the year ended March 31, its parent company National Aviation Company of India Ltd. is estimated to have posted losses totaling about $1.2 billion, making it one of the global industry’s most unprofitable carriers and a major financial problem for the Indian government.


Chairman Arvind Jadhav has been trying to turn the airline around by seeking to cut employee ranks, increase cargo on long-haul flights and persuade the government to inject about $2.2 billion in funds.


The airline’s origins date to 1932, when Indian industrialist and aviation pioneer J.R.D. Tata founded Tata Airlines. It later became government-owned Air India. In 2007, Air India was merged with Indian Airlines, the state-run domestic service. But the merger has only been partially completed.


In the meantime, Indian private carriers such as Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. and Jet Airways have eaten into its domestic market share. And international carriers have begun flying directly from abroad to Indian cities beyond Delhi and Mumbai.

İlgili Makaleler

- Corendon -spot_img

Son Dakika