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Monday, August 29, 2011

137 Kochi flyers escape M’lore crash rerun

Kochi: An Airbus A-320 carrying 137 passengers and six crew careened off the runway and finally stopped nose down in the slush as its pilot tried to land in blinding rain and gusty winds early on Monday morning. 

    It was a miracle that what may have ended in a Mangalore-type crash that killed 158 people left only seven people on board the Bahrain-Kochi flight injured. Only one passenger needed hospitalization. 
    There were conflicting reports about whether the Gulf Air pilot acted rashly in coming in to land or whether the ground staff failed to alert the cockpit crew of the dangerous tarmac conditions. 
    When the aircraft finally stopped, its nose wheel off and its wings, tail section and an engine seriously damaged, the emergency chutes flung open and passengers had to slide out of the aircraft. The pilot was quoted as saying the aircraft veered off the runway because of heavy rain and poor visibility. 
    According to eyewitness reports, rescue efforts didn't begin right away with most of the dazed passengers not knowing what to do after exiting the aircraft. Airport authorities attributed this to the fact that it was not an "emergency landing". 
    "The pilot had planned 
for a normal landing and we had also made arrangements accordingly," CIAL managing director V J Kurien said. 
    However, a DGCA source indicated that Ussain Mahmood, who was in command of Flight 270 failed to align the aircraft with the centre of the runway while landing. 
    Instead, the aircraft touched down towards the right of the runway and skidded into the slush. Mahmood then tried to pull the aircraft back on to the runway but it got stuck in the slush. "Had he managed to take it on to 
the tarmac, the friction caused by the damaged nose wheel would have caused sparks and a major fire would definitely have broken out," a source said. 
    Based on tapes of communications between ATC and Gulf Air 270, DGCA confirmed that other than the alignment, the rest of the landing procedure was smooth. In his debriefing, Mahmood, the pilot, claimed to have been "suddenly blinded'' by a gust of wind and rain. "Realizing that he was skidding, the pilot screamed May Day. That was the last communication
from the cockpit to ATC," a source said. The runway was closed immediately, leading to diversion of 12 international flights and delays in several domestic flights. Most of the affected flights in the international sector were diverted to Thiruvananthapuram and Oman Airways flight landed in Bangalore. Some domestic and international flights which had landed prior to the accident were also unable to take off on schedule. 
    DGCA said it would determine cause of the incident only after an investigation.


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