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India poor in aviation safety standards
Published on 22 May. 2010 11:40 PM IST
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India has poor aviation safety standards and accidents like Saturday’s crash near Mangalore are bound to occur if these are not improved, said Captain M.R. Wadia, founder president of the Federation of Indian Pilots.
Reacting to the Mangalore air crash that killed 158 people, Wadia said the country needs to focus on improving safety standards in the aviation sector.
“According to the Flight Safety Foundation figures, India has the highest rate of aviation accidents in the world. But the sad part is that still we do not have specialists in aviation safety,” said Wadia.
He said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) controls air safety but it also doesn’t have an independent safety board.
“All countries in the world have an independent safety board. But despite having so many accidents we don’t have a safety board as yet. Even several government-appointed committees have recommended an independent safety board,” Wadia said.
“We have made representations to the government time and again to improve safety standards but it has refrained from implementing them,” he said.
The Air India Express passenger plane flying from Dubai overshot the runway after landing at the Mangalore airport, killing 158 people. Only eight people survived.
Risky airports in India
India has many airports that come with a `special tag’ due to peculiarities and complexities involved in the landing and take-off procedures for aircraft at these airports.
Typically, airports located in hilly and mountainous regions, and those adjacent to water bodies like rivers and seas are classified as `special’.
The Mangalore airport is one among the list of such airports. Others include the ones in Srinagar, Leh, Port Blair, Calicut, and Agatti in Lakshadweep. The Vizag aiport used to be on this list up until a new airport was built.
“The runways at the airports in Leh and Port Blair are unidirectional, which means aircraft can only land and take off in one direction irrespective of the direction of the wind. That’s because both airports have mountainous terrain on one side of the runway,” says a former air force pilot who has a flying experience of more than 35 years.
The Mangalore airport is situated on a hillock, and the runway is built on a flat stretch of land, with either ends of the runway sloping downwards. So, if a pilot misjudges his landing or take-off, the aircraft will overshoot the runway and go down hill. Which is what seems to have happened to AirIndia Express flight IX-812.
“At the Calicut airport, pilots have to keep a close watch on the hills situated close by. At Agatti, the runway is very small, with tall trees on one side of the airport. At Srinagar airport, there are high wind speeds and a mountainous topography,” says a pilot, who flies for a leading airline in India. Only very experienced pilots and co-pilots are deployed to fly aircraft to airports that have certain peculiarities, reported Times News Network.
According to airline officials, pilots operating flights to these airports are made to undergo special training programmes, and are constantly put through special checks. “They not only have to be well versed with the topography of the land surrounding these airports but also with the extreme weather conditions that most of these special airports are faced with,” said an airline official.
Kathmandu in Nepal is another airport where pilots have to take special precautions, as the landing and take-off paths are through mountains.

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