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Air India plane crashes in Mangalore, 159 dead, 7 survivors, all passengers Indians, court of inquiry to be set up
MANGALORE (KARNATAKA)/NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON, MAY 22 (IANS/PTI):
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Published on 23 May. 2010 12:44 AM IST
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At least 159 people were killed when a packed to capacity Air India Express flight from Dubai crashed Saturday while landing at Mangalore’s “table top” airport, breaking into pieces and falling into a deep gorge in balls of fire. Only seven passengers survived in what is one of India’s worst aviation disasters.
Though it had been raining for two days, there was clear visibility with no wind when the Boeing 737-800 with 160 passengers, including 19 children and four infants, as well as six crew members overshot the runway at 6.05 a.m., authorities and witnesses said.
There was no distress call from pilot Z. Glusica, a British national of Serbian origin who had flown in and out of Mangalore at least 19 times and received due landing clearance four miles from touchdown at the hilltop airport at Bajpe, about 20 km from here and 350 km from Bangalore.
Indian Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said after visiting the crash site the IX812 ploughed through a wall of sandbags and veered off course.
A court of inquiry is to be set up and Boeing has said it will assist the investigation.
All passengers were Indians and an estimated 50 were from Kerala.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the loss of lives in the crash and announced a financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of those killed.
As a mark of respect to those who perished in the tragedy, the function at the Prime Minister’s residence this evening to mark the completion of the first year of UPA II government has been postponed, a statement from the PMO said here.
The Prime Minister has also announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to those injured in the crash from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
Resignation rejected
Owning “moral responsibility” for the Mangalore air crash, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel is Saturday night believed to have offered to resign to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who reportedly turned down the offer.
Patel, who met Singh after visiting the crash site in Mangalore, conveyed his “deep sense of anguish” over the tragedy in which 158 people lost their lives.
Singh is believed to have told Patel that there was no need for him to resign and that he should focus on facing the situation.
Survivors’ accounts
“I saw the plane catch fire and heard the shrieks of my co-passengers inside,” said Krishnan, recalling how the aircraft shook as it lost one of its tyres after the landing.
He said he removed the seat belt and sprang out through the gap.
“The plane shook with vibrations before it split into two. As soon as it hit the ground, I managed to get out and jump into a pit. There was smoke all over as the plane caught fire. After ten minutes, there was an explosion,” said Pradeep, one of the seven survivors
Umar Farooq, who suffered burn injuries on his hands and legs said, “The plane overshot the runway only to stop inside a forest area and then it burst into flames.”
US probe team
At the request of Indian government, the US on Saturday sent a team of top investigators to India to assist authorities there to probe the Mangalore plane crash.
The US team of investigators includes officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Federal Aviation Authority, General Electricals and Boeing, a NTSB spokesman said.
Expat pilots
The crash of the Air India Express plane piloted by a Serbian national on Saturday has put the focus back on whether foreign pilots with various Indian air carriers are able to operate in a country with a diverse topography. “Expat pilots should be removed because they are not familiar with the diverse topography in India,” a retired Indian Airlines pilot, who did not wish to be identified, said.
“Many a times, foreign pilots are unable to follow the instructions because of the difference in our accent. Also we find it hard to understand what an expat pilot is saying in his hard accent,” an ATC source said.
Accident happened : 6:05 am
The runway
The new 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 downhill. Which is what seems to have happened to Air India Express flight IX-812.
Length: 5,800 ft (1,740 mts)
Runway elevation: 336 ft (101 mts)
Passengers
Total: 166
(137 adults, 19 children, 4 infants and 6 crew)
Survivors: 7
Among the survivors are four children.
List of survivors
Putturismail Abdulla
Joel Pratap DSouza
G.K. Pradeep
Krishnan Koolikkunnu
Mayankutty K.P
Ummer Farook Mohammed
Sabrina Nasrinhuq.
Plane facts
State-of-the-art Boeing 737-800 inducted on Jan. 15, 2008.
Piloted by Serbian expatriate Capt Zlatko Glusica.
Glusica (55) had 10,000 hours of flying experience.
CAUSES
Theory 1
It overshot the runway after it landed. The plane didn’t stop after landing. Could it be a tyre burst?
Theory 2
The aircraft overshot the runway, hit the fence and went beyond the boundary wall of the airport, broke and went up in flames.

 
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