Mangalore Airport is a ‘special’ airport because it is placed high on a hillock with many valleys surrounding it….it is a tricky air-strip. Only a well experienced pilot can land safely on such an airport. either end of the runway is sloping downwards and if a pilot misjudges landing or take-off, the aircraft will overshoot the runway and go downhill. Air India has lost many of its capable pilots to the Private sector and the existing capable pilots are stressed due to overwork.
A table-top runway, stressed out AI pilots, inefficient ATC, fated crash….what is the cause? The pilot in the aircraft is a Yugoslavian ( actually serbia that was part of Yugoslavia earlier) by birth and has worked for quite long enough in Air India to make any ‘stupid’ mistake on landing! and he has landed on the same airport safely..just 5 days back. I have been watching the news in bits and pieces ( it has become sensational news with plethora of channels vying for best viewer-ship ratings). The bodies were charred beyond recognition…the co-pilot ahluwalia was charred too!…very saddening news….the Air India Express Boeing 737 from Dubai overshoots the Table- top runway at mangalore and plunges into valley killing 158 passengers…..
Air India has.. really.. well experienced pilots….but the lure of better packages and terms…has migrated many of them out of AI to competitive private operators ( now few of these are national airliners!).
But, on a tricky air-strip like this..hard landing (which is banned by AI) is safer..and better. What is a hard landing and why it should not exceed 1.65G? What is 1.65G? Air India has issued a circular that no hard landings should exceed 1.65G. And every time a landing exceeds 1.65G..the pilot gets hauled up by the air safety department. Okay…let’s hear… when the undercarriage of a plane touches down on the runway, the sink rate goes from say 200 feet per minute to zero feet per minute ..in a few seconds. So for a higher sink rate, the impact on touchdown is greater and viceversa. The hard or smooth quotient is expressed as ‘touchdown G’…..1 G means..the force which acted on aircraft tyres at the instant of a touchdown is equivalent to the weight of the aircraft (1 * aircraft weight)….higher the value of G…harder the landing. AI has put the limit at 1.65G as maximum allowed! Though…Boeing says it can withstand up to 2.5G….
Now this a tricky….real tricky situation…. a small airport/ runway, a hillock region, too experienced pilots to commit any errors, the referred pilot has landed several times safely on the same airport, lowering standards in AI, statistics confirming 78% of crashes are due to pilot errors….
Was it a pilot error?