Pilot error led to Air India Express crash in Kerala last year: Report

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Pilot error led to Air India Express crash in Kerala last year: Report (Image: Pixabay)
Pilot error led to Air India Express crash in Kerala last year: Report (Image: Pixabay)

Kozhikode : The probable cause of an Air India plane crash at Kozhikode airport last year was due to non-adherence to the standard operating procedure by the pilot flying the aircraft, a government report released on Saturday stated. A total of 21 passengers had lost their lives in the incident.

"'The probable cause of the accident was the non-adherence to standard operating procedures by the pilot flying, wherein, he continued an unstabilized approach and landed beyond the touchdown zone, halfway down the runway, in spite of 'Go Around' call by [the] Pilot Monitoring which warranted a mandatory 'Go Around' and the failure of the Pilot Monitoring to take over controls and execute a 'Go Around'," said the 257-page report by Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau.

What is 'Go Around'?

'Go Around' is when a pilot decides to abort the landing before or after touching down if they feel that the plane could not come to a halt at a safe distance. In a 'Go Around', the aircraft informs the air traffic control of their decision to abort their planned landing before making another approach to land at the same or at a diversionary airfield.

In the flight from Dubai to Kozhikode, there were 184 passengers and six crew members. A total of 19 passengers and 2 pilots had lost their lives in the accident.

The Boeing 737 Air India Express flight was operating under the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians stranded due to the suspension of international flight operations in wake of the Covid pandemic.

After two unsuccessful landing attempts due to bad weather, the plane touched down on the tabletop runway but overshot it, fell into the adjoining valley and broke into three pieces.

"Before the approach for runway 10 as well, the Pilot in Command did not carry out adequate briefing for landing with tailwinds, in rain and poor visibility. The mandatory calculation of landing distances was omitted. Alternate airfields most suited for 'diversions' in case of second missed approach under the prevailing weather conditions and unserviceable windshield wiper were not covered during the briefing,'' the report said.

"This was a violation of the SOP, and the error magnified on this approach as the landing was made in strong tailwind condition on a wet tabletop runway in active rain," it added. 

The report further said, ''The crew were experienced and had often operated in Indian monsoon conditions. They were aware of the adverse weather Standard Operating Procedures of Kozhikode. The Pilot in Command took a decision not to divert after the 'missed approach' on runway 28 even though there were alternate airfields available in close proximity and there was enough fuel onboard."

"Subsequently, without any risk assessment, the Pilot in Command continued for a second approach into Kozhikode. The First Officer did not give any input regarding this gross SOP violation to the Pilot in Command, indicating a steep cockpit authority gradient resulting in poor Crew Resource Management,'' it added.

The report stated that the flying officer had "correctly identified that the approach for runway 10 was an 'unstabilized approach'". "After making two unassertive attempts to attract the Pilot in Command's attention towards the unstabilized approach, using non-standard vocabulary, he asked the Pilot in Command to 'Go Around' just before touchdown. In spite of knowing full well that the approach was unstabilized and the Pilot in Command was not responding, the First Officer did not take over the controls as per the company Standard Operating Procedures and initiate a 'Go Around','' the report stated.