Is Mangalore Airport really dangerous?

158 dead in airplane accident

In the worst aircraft disaster in India for 14 years, an aircraft with 166 passengers shot over the tarmac after landing in Mangalore and crashed into a valley on Saturday. Only 8 passengers survived.

"I heard a loud bang," reports Umer Farook to the television station NDTV. "The plane turned and hit trees, then the cabin filled with smoke." At least 158 ​​people were killed when, shortly after 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, a plane belonging to the state airline Air India Express got off the runway while landing at the airport in Mangalore in the Indian state of Karnataka and fell into a ravine.

Farook is in hospital with burn injuries. Coated with white cream on his face, he tells the story of his rescue. "I was stuck between cables, but was able to climb out of the plane." Farook and 7 other people miraculously survived the accident. Apparently the pilots did not succeed in stopping the Boeing 737-800 on the runway. The plane sped into a forest, the right wing hit technical structures on the ground and broke off. After that, the plane crashed into a canyon about 100 meters deep, caught fire and burned out almost completely.

Mangalore Airport is located on a plateau. In some places it is only 30 meters from the runway to the abyss. The runway is also relatively short at 1.6 kilometers. Flight IX 812 from Dubai only had Indian passengers on board. Most of them worked in the United Arab Emirates or were visiting families. There were also around 20 children on the flight. None of the six crew members survived. The pilot, who came from Serbia and was a British citizen, also died in the accident. It is the worst airplane crash in India in 14 years. It is unclear whether the pilot touched down in the wrong place on the runway or whether a technical error caused the machine to shoot over the runway.

According to unconfirmed reports, one or more tires should burst when the aircraft touched down, preventing the pilots from braking normally. "It is too early to make precise statements about the cause of the accident," said the Indian Minister for Civil Aviation, Praful Patel. He pointed out that the cockpit crew was very experienced. The pilot had over 10,000 hours of flight experience. He and his co-pilot have landed at Mangalore Airport several times. The co-pilot did not fly to Mangalore for the last time until May 17th. The touchdown of the Boeing went normally. The pilots had not sent an emergency signal to the tower, said Patel. The aircraft was relatively new and had worked flawlessly until then. The weather and visibility were also good.

Mangalore Airport started operating in 2006. Aviation Minister Patel only inaugurated a second runway on May 15, which, at 2.6 kilometers, is much longer than the old one. The crashed machine landed on the old, shorter runway. The runway is compliant with the international requirements for the Boeing 737, said Patel. The minister later publicly offered to resign. He was "morally responsible for the accident," he said.

Many pilots consider the airport runway to be very dangerous, especially during the monsoon season when the weather and visibility are poor. Former head of the air traffic control authority, Denzil Keelor, told NDTV that the security zone in Mangalore would not be large enough if a pilot lost control of his aircraft. There is then no way to correct a pilot's error. A landing in Mangalore was “always a terrifying experience,” said Satya Narayan, a journalist for the Dubai newspaper “Gulf News”, who often travels to Mangalore, describing the approach.