Representatives of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) and the Airport Authority of India are investigating the black boxes of the Air India Express aircraft that broke up due to the landing mishap at the Karippur airport, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told newspersons on Saturday.
Puri said it was premature to speculate on the reasons for the mishap, but pointed out that the weather conditions at the time of landing were bad.
He was responding to questions by media persons as to whether there were mechanical problems with the wheels of the aircraft.
It has been reported that the runway had three centimetres of rainwater, which made the conditions slippery. The minister said that water on the runway would make the plane slip and this could have led to the crash.
The minister announced what he described as interim relief of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of those who lost their lives in the accident. Those who are grievously injured would be paid Rs 5 lakh and those with minor injuries would get Rs 2 lakh each.
Puri said this is in addition to other customary compensation by way of insurance and other benefits.
Additionally, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced a payment of Rs 10 lakh each for the families of the dead, while the entire treatment of the injured would be the responsibility of the state government.
The governor and the chief minister as well as the Union Civil Aviation minister and minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan visited various hospitals and enquired about the health of the injured.
A total number of 123 passengers are undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Malappuram and Kozhikode and the condition of over 20 of them is reported to be serious. Another 23 passengers have been discharged after treatment of their minor injuries. So far 18 persons have lost their lives.
It now emerges that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had served a notice on the management of the Karippur airport, indicating serious safety lapses and vulnerabilities. The notice had also warned against rubber deposits getting accumulated on the runway, jeopardising safety.
The airport management had claimed that the problem had been sorted out, but the manner in which the aircraft involved in the accident lost grip on the runway points to the persistence of the problem.
It is also believed that inadequate lighting on the runway had affected the pilot’s visibility, leading to miscalculations on the plane’s height in the air before attempting landing. The plane had tried to touch down and then lifted off before making the disastrous landing.
It is pointed out that at the Mangalore airport, where a similar tragedy occurred 10 years ago, no more landings are allowed when there is heavy rain. The ill-fated Air India Express was trying to land when Kozhikode was under the spell of heavy rains for a couple of days.