At least 18 were killed after a Dubai-Calicut Air India Express flight carrying over 190 passengers, including infants and crew members skidded off the tabletop runway at Kerala's Kozhikode International airport on Friday evening.
Both the pilot and the co-pilot were killed in the crash when the aircraft fell into a 35-feet-deep valley before splitting into two parts. Four crew members are safe, Air India Express said in a statement.
According to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, at 127 were admitted to hospitals and others have been released.
Our task would have been much more difficult if the plane had caught fire. I am going to the airport (Kozhikode International Airport in Karipur): Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Minister #Kerala https://t.co/4jXb4PAxQI
" ANI (@ANI) August 8, 2020
The aviation minister said a formal inquiry will be conducted by Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB).
"Our task would have been much more difficult had the plane caught fire," Puri told ANI.
Of the injured, at least 20 are in a critical condition, with some receiving spinal cord injuries due to the impact, Hindustan Times quoted hospital sources as saying.
A DGCA probe team arrived in Kozhikode along with junior minister of external affairs V Muraleedhran early on Saturday.
Kerala: Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan reaches #Kozhikode where Air India flight (IX-1344) crash-landed yesterday.
17 people including two pilots have lost their lives in the incident. Injured are admitted to hospitals in Malappuram & Kozhikode. pic.twitter.com/DimUR6tAhU
" ANI (@ANI) August 8, 2020
The Boeing 737 aircraft was coming from Dubai and was operating under India's Vande Bharat mission, an initiative to bring back stranded Indians from foreign countries.
The flight was attempting to land in a bad weather when it overshot the runway around 7.40 pm on Friday and fell off the embankment.
Speaking to India Today, Puri said, "Weather conditions being what they are, I'm told the aircraft couldn't be brought to a halt. As a tabletop airport, it imposes a challenge. There was a 30-foot drop to the ground below. Fortunately, the plane that broke into two didn't catch fire."
Craft was at 'full speed'
Puri will arrive at Kozhikode on Saturday afternoon.
Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told news agency ANI that the Dubai-Kozhikode aircraft was at "full speed".
In a statement, the DGCA said, "Visibility was 2,000 metres and there was heavy rain." It said the flight, IX-1344, shot runway 10.
The Kozhikode International airport, is known for its 'tabletop' runway - a runway located on the top of hills/terrain. Called as of the riskiest landings, the runway is raised up quite a bit over its surroundings with deep gorges at both ends.
The pilot of the flight was a former Air Force pilot who also flew Airbus 310 for Air India before moving to Air India Express flying the Boeing 737. Wing Commander Deepak Sathe has won 'Sword of Honour' at AFA, was accomplished fighter pilot, and was HAL test pilot too, according to CNN-News18.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and governor Arif Mohammad Khan will visit Kozhikode on Saturday to meet those injured in the flight crash, ANI reported.
"Two special relief flights have been arranged from Delhi and Mumbai, respectively, for rendering humanitarian assistance to all the passengers and the family members. AAIB, DGCA and Flight Safety Departments have reached to investigate the incident," Air India Express was quoted as saying by ANI.