Precious lives have been lost in the Air India Express runway mishap on Friday evening, but the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had been alerted about the dangers associated with the runway of the Kozhikode airport as far back as in 2011.
The civil aviation authorities were alerted about the dangers associated with the Kozhikode runway by Captain Ranganathan, Member Ops-CASAC (Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council, a government-appointed air safety panel) in a letter dated June 17, 2011.
The letter was addressed jointly to Naseem Zaidi, Civil Aviation Secretary and Chairman, CASAC, and Bharat Bhushan of the DGCA.
'It is a dangerous situation, especially in wet conditions'
"It is a dangerous situation, especially in wet conditions. The Runway No. 10 should not be permitted in view of the lack of Runway End Safety Areas (RESA) and the terrain beyond the end of the runway," Ranganathan had forwarned in what appears to be both a warning and a premonition.
"All the flights which land on Runway 10 in tailwind conditions are endangering the lives of all on board," Ranganathan had written.
"I understand that Runway 10 ILS is being used on a trial basis at Calicut. Some of the crew members are even accepting VOR approaches on Runway 10. The reason is the lower minimia than Runway 28," he had said in the letter.
In the letter, he referred to an inspection report by Arun Rao which was submitted to the civil aviation authorities. In the letter, he blamed the AAI. "There has been no effort on the part of the AAI to rectify the safety infringements that Arun Rao pointed out in 2010," Ranganathan wrote.
The airlines have maintained that all their pilots have completed the Approach and Landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) training and the Flight Standards Directorate (FSD) appears to be satisfied with the response.
"In spite of the dangers, if the crew accepts a landing in wet and tailwind conditions, their concept of ALAR is poor," he wrote in the letter.
"Calicut runway does not have the minimum RESA on one end and no RESA on the other. The runway strip is just half the minimum width laid down in ICAO Annex 4. This fact was known to the DGCA team that has been conducting inspections and safety assessments during the past several years. Have they considered the dangers involved? Has the DGCA or the airlines laid down any operational restrictions or special procedures," Ranganathan had asked.
He even alluded to the Mangalore incident. "The Air India Express incident in Mangalore should have alerted the AAI to make the runway conditions safe. We have brought up the issue of the RESA during the initial CASAC sub-group meetings. We had specifically mentioned that declared distances for both runways have to be reduced in order to comply with the ICAO requirement," he had warned.