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Wed 2 Jun 2010 07:44 PM

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Mangalore to extend Air India crash runway

Announcement comes 11 days after the fatal crash that killed 159 people.

Mangalore to extend Air India crash runway
RUNWAY EXTENSION: In the aftermath of the Air India Express crash, Mangalore Airport has announced that it will extend its runway by a 1,000 feet. (Getty Images)

Mangalore Airport, the site of an Air India Express crash last month, is planning to extend its runway by 1,000 feet, it was reported Wednesday.

The announcement comes eleven days after an Air India Express aircraft, enroute from Dubai, overshot the runway and crashed killing 159 people.

The Indian Government has confirmed it plans to extend the runway length from 8,000 feet to 9,000 feet, it was reported by the Asian News International (ANI) network.

Indian Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told ANI that the runway will be extended to meet international standards and a new approach radar is also being considered.

Following the May 22 crash, industry observers began to question the level of safety in the Indian aviation sector. Indian media regularly reports about routine checks finding pilots reporting drunk for duty and in one instance last year pilots and crew were involved in a mid-air scuffle, leaving the aircraft to fly on its own.

A Ranganathan, an airline safety consultant and pilot instructor, said: "The Air India Express crash was waiting to happen."

He added: "Safety standards in Indian aviation have been on the wane for the last six years. Efforts being made to correct the drift, but the systematic rot is so deep... we are not likely to see any improvement in safety unless drastic changes are made."

Sustained robust growth has put more money in people's pockets, spurring air travel and an exponential growth in the number of low cost airlines. Domestic passenger traffic has tripled and international traffic doubled in the past five years.

But infrastructure may not have kept pace and a shortage of staff may be stretching both airlines and traffic control staff. Indian Commercial Pilot Association said in a statement 78 percent of crashes took place due to fatigue-related human error.

Kapil Kaul, head of the Center for Asia-Pacific Aviation in South Asia, said: "You also need to augment the strength of air traffic control which is stretched."

The hill top airport at Mangalore has significant geographical challenges, and critics say the runway, though adequate for landing the Boeing 737 that crashed, was not long or wide enough to leave any room for error.

While it was yet to be established if the accident was related to wider problems in India's aviation industry, experts say a lack of training, overworked staff and inadequate infrastructure only compounds the situation.

For instance, only seven radars serve Indian air space and only big airports have the latest low visibility landing systems, a senior official of the Airports Authority of India told Reuters.

An official involved with aviation security said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, said: "A disaster was waiting to happen and we have been very lucky to have had no major accidents in the past ten years."

In April 2008, then director general of civil aviation, Kanu Gohain, told the Mint newspaper that India had just three inspectors for ten commercial airlines and 600 planes.

That number has now gone up, but many remain under trained and a backlog of lapsed inspections may take years to clear. (Additional reporting by Reuters)

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charu 10 years ago

i was jus going thru this artcle, i suddenly stuck with the picture shown in this article. observe it, the fume appears like a face of a man.

Raj 10 years ago

Extending the runway is a good idea anyway provided all the funds allocated to it goes only for the extension and not into any air pockets. Getting the results of the investigation is paramount and just extending teh runway seems like a typical knee jerk reaction. The IXE airport has been in service for over 40 years having been recently extended to take on heavier traffic. To say its unsafe is not right. Does it meet with the "standards" required for the aircrafts? What about every other airport in India? World?

Raj 10 years ago

These are some of the words that most articles related to any Indian aviation seems to revolve around. Perhaps it needs to revolve around Aviation Minister, Aviation Ministry, Corruption at the Very Top. The aviation misister was deemed to be so successful that he was given an additional term. Any/all international airlines relying on routes to India as a mainstyay are thriving and growing from strength to strength - without an aviation ministry!! Perhaps its time to relook at the aviation ministry's real performance.

N Mohammed 10 years ago

Airport Authority and Civil Aviation depts already charge Airport Taxes from passengers and enough amount for flying, overflying, landing and ground operation services from airlines. In addition, it is found that some Indian Airports levy a user's fee to recover the money spent for expansion of its facilities. I hope this planned runway extension at Mangalore Airport will not be made at the cost of its users.

CJ 10 years ago

What were the authorities waiting for, to lose innocent lives ? The PM should hold people accountable for this disaster or he will have blood on his hands for not taking action, Innocent blood to add.