Air India’s Express flight AXB1344 departed from Dubai carrying 190 passengers: 174 adults, 10 minors, two pilots, and four cabin staff to Kozhikode aka Calicut, in Kerala, India.
It was a repatriation flight for Indians who got stranded abroad due to COVID-19.
Associated Press reported that the aircraft skidded off the runway and crash-landed on a gorge of Kozhikode’s table-top runway.
The plane cracked in two, which resulted in 18 dead, including both pilots and more than 120 injured passengers.
The airline said in a statement that the four flight crew were safe.
At least 15 of the injured were in a critical state, said Abdul Karim, a senior police officer.
A Survivor’s Statement
Renjith Panangad said, in a telephone interview, the aircraft swung from side to side violently before crashing.
Panangad was returning home from Dubai for the first time after losing his 3-year job as a plumber at a construction firm.
He and the other passengers crawled out of the fuselage via the emergency exit.
He heard a “big noise during the impact,” and the passengers “started screaming,” Panangad added.
The Pilots’ Competence
The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of the aircraft were retrieved, Hindustan Times reported.
Both items were recovered Saturday morning from the accident site.
Hardeep Puri, an official of the Union Civil Aviation, said there was no question over the aviators’ competence, hence no need for speculations.
Puri added that the pilots of the flight were very seasoned aviators.
Deepak Vasant Sathe, a former fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force, had 10,000 hours of experience on flying the Boeing aircraft.
Sathe had landed on the challenging runway of Calicut 27 times.
The co-pilot, Akhilesh Kumar, 32, also had 1,728 hours of flying with the aircraft.
What the Authorities Have Uncovered in Their Probe
Using the two recovered aircraft devices that contain the flight’s data and the cockpit voice records, officials made some discoveries.
First, the Siasat Daily reported that as per flight data tracker, the ill-fated Air India Express flight maneuvered to land.
The aircraft also reached as low as 1,975 feet (0.6 km), 16 minutes before it skidded on the runway.
Lastly, a slippery airfield, strong tailwind, adverse weather conditions, and landing ahead of the threshold spot could be the fatal recipe for the crash.
Civil Aviation official Hardeep Puri said, due to “the weather conditions, Sathe (the pilot) “could not land” during the first attempt.
The aviator “did a turnaround” and attempted “to approach it from a different direction.”
Puri added that the slippery runway seemingly caused the aircraft to nose-dive.