Year Later, Report Reveals What Led to Kozhikode Airport Crash That Killed 21

Almost a year after the plane crash at the Kozhikode airport in August 2020 which claimed 21 lives, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has released a probe report on Saturday stating that the accident occurred due to a pilot. It however also added that systemic error cannot be ruled out.

What Happened on August 7?

On August 7, 2020, Air India Express’s B737-800 aircraft crashed at the Kozhikode (Calicut) International airport in Kerala. The plane coming from Dubai had overshot the runway at Kozhikode airport and later broke into pieces. There were 186 people on board the aircraft out of which 21 people, including pilot and co-pilot, were killed in the mishap. The remaining 165 people onboard the flight, including passengers and cabin crew, were rescued. Several had sustained injuries.

The AAIB in their probe report has pinned the blame for the mishap on multiple factors, some of which are;

1. Non-Adherence of SOP By Pilot

The 257-page report has put the primary blame for the crash on the pilot. It noted that the cause of the accident was non-adherence to the standard operating procedure by the pilot flying the aircraft. “The probable cause of the accident was the non-adherence to SOP by pilot flying, wherein, he continued an unstabilized approach and landed beyond the touchdown zone, halfway down the runway, in spite of ‘Go Around’ call by PM (pilot monitoring) which warranted ‘Go Around’ and the failure of the PM to take over controls and execute a ‘Go Around’,” the crash report read.

2. Systemic Failure

While no glitch in the operations of the aircraft systems was reported, the investigative team contended that the role of systemic failures as a contributory factor cannot be overlooked in the accident.

3. Faulty Windshield Wiper

As per reports, the windshield wiper on the PIC side stopped working during the first approach. The CVR recording revealed that the PIC carried out a detailed briefing to an experienced FO (flight officer) regarding a routine action for the selection of windshield wipers. The undue concern and briefing hint at the fact that the crew probably had prior knowledge of the unreliable windshield wiper.

4. No Brief on Landing Distance

It has been revealed that the pilot in command (Captain DV Sathe) did not discuss the LDA/ALD (landing distance available) and made the landing flaps and auto-brake selection setting in violation of the SOP. The mandatory calculation of landing distances was omitted as well. Even before the approach for runway 10, the PIC did not carry out adequate briefing for landing with tailwinds, in rain and poor visibility.

5. Approach with Faulty Windshield

The AAIB report revealed that during the approach on runway 28 into Kozhikode, the windshield wiper on the PIC side worked for 27 sec and then stopped. Also, on the approach for runway 10, the PIC wiper worked but probably at a slower speed than the selected speed. Both approaches and the final landing at Kozhikode were made inactive rain without a fully serviceable wiper on the PIC side.

6. Diversions

Alternate airfields most suited for ‘diversions’ in case of a second missed approach due to turbulent weather and unserviceable windshield wiper were also not briefed upon in violation of the SOP.

7. Turbulent Weather

Due to heavy rains, the AXB 1344 carried out a ‘missed approach’ at ILS minimums (DA) while attempting to land on runway 28. However, landing with an unserviceable wiper in rain may also have been a contributory factor to not being able to see the runway.

8. No Risk Assessment

There was no assessment of the risk involved. The PIC took a decision not to divert after the ‘missed approach’ on runway 28 even though there were alternate airfields available in close proximity and enough fuel onboard. In addition, the FO also did not give any input regarding this SOP violation to the PIC.

9. Safety Compromised

The Pilot Monitoring did not make the mandatory announcement for the cabin crew to be seated on the first approach for landing on runway 28 at Kozhikode. This majorly compromised the safety of the cabin crew.

10. Cabin Crew

The cabin Crew did act irresponsibly as well. The crew were experienced and had often operated in Indian monsoon conditions. They were aware of the adverse weather SOP of AIXL yet they did not follow and also missed the discussion of many safety issues.

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