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'The crew and the aircraft are overburdened'

By Vicky Nanjappa
May 23, 2010 16:46 IST
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In the worst air crash in India in the last decade, an Air India flight from Dubai overshot the runway and crashed at the Mangalore airport on Saturday morning, killing 158 passengers.

As authorities probe the cause of the crash, a range of factors from the lack of safety infrastructure to the absence of a metallic runway at the airport have been blamed for the crash.

Walter D'souza, editor-in-chief of popular website Daijiworld, is a regular traveler on the Dubai-Mangalore route. In a conversation with, D'souza said that he takes the same flight from Mangalore every time he travels to Dubai, and the incident has shocked him.

"The incident is unfortunate. This runway has been in operation since 2006 and just because of this incident, it is unfair to blame it.

"I have traveled on that aircraft several times and I fly to Dubai every month. This flight takes off from Mangalore at 9 pm and reaches Dubai by midnight. It stops there for an hour and then immediately returns to Mangalore. I feel that the maintenance time is too short for this flight and the aviation authorities are completely dodging this point. I have felt that the crew and the aircraft are overburdened.

"Over the years, the number of people going to Dubai has increased, and so has the number of flights. There were just three flights per week in 2006. The number of flights later increased to seven and then to ten. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, two flights shuttle between Mangalore and Dubai. There is a need to operate additional aircraft on this route.

"The airport has been running smoothly for some time. But there is a need to set up 1,000 metres of additional runway for better operations. This incident was a clear case of pilot's error and it is very clear that the aircraft hit a pole before it crashed," he said.

Vikram Hegde, a senior advocate in Mangalore, points out that the schedule for Dubai-bound flights is very hectic. He tells that the airport should be expanded as people from coastal Kerala, northern Karnataka and south Karnataka use it.

"There has been a lot of criticism regarding the runway. But a table top airport is a better bet when compared to the Mumbai airport, where the aircraft flies through the city.

"The aviation industry can provide better infrastructure. There have been 32,000 landings at the Mangalore airport so far. The air traffic to Gulf is extremely heavy and during the holiday season, it almost doubles.

"Regarding the arrangements that have been made following this incident, I have not heard anyone complaining. The local hospitals have managed despite low infrastructure and full marks have to be awarded to them," he said.

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Vicky Nanjappa