Mangalore crash: Captain ignored co-pilot’s plea to abort landing


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New Delhi, 31 May 2010: The horrific Air India Express crash in Mangalore on May 22 that killed 158 people could have possibly been averted had the expat commander heeded his Indian co-pilot’s advice. Records of the conversation between the pilots and ATC has shown that co-pilot H S Ahluwalia more than once urged Captain Zlatko Glusica not to land and instead go around.

Importantly, Ahluwalia’s warning had come well before the aircraft had descended below decision height - the critical level at or before which a final decision on whether to land or go around is to be taken - said highly placed sources. Ahluwalia, who was based in Mangalore and had landed there 66 times, voiced his concern when the aircraft was about 800 feet high, they added.

"Ahluwalia warned at least twice against landing and urged his commander to go around. He had probably realized the aircraft was either too fast or too high on approach - indicating unstable approach - and would not be able to stop safely on the table-top Mangalore runway. In such situations, going around is a standard operating procedure which enables the aircraft to land safely in second attempt," said a source at ATC. The aircraft (IX 812) was coming from Dubai.

But the warning went in vain and the aircraft did not go around. It landed, only to crash and fall off the cliff from this table-top runway. The latest revelation only confirms Ahluwalia’s excellent knowledge of the local runway condition. The co-pilot lived in the city. He was due for commandership later in May.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has guidelines for cockpit resource management (CRM) that makes it mandatory for commanders to listen to their comparatively less experienced co-pilots as they may also have something valid to say. According to industry sources, CRM training is very strong in Jet Airways, where Ahluwalia had served earlier. "This is the backbone of Jet and this training would have made Ahluwalia call out very strongly," said sources.

Authorities are now pinning their hopes on details from the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (black box) to know what exactly transpired inside the cockpit in the final moments. More importantly, they now want to know what made Ahluwalia give the warning for a go-around and why the commander did still went ahead to land. But the CVR and black box have got substantially damaged and may have to be sent to the manufacturer (Boeing) in US for decoding.

The Boeing 737-800 touched down after overshooting 2,000 feet of the 8,000-feet-long runway. The second error followed seconds later.

Sources said preliminary probe is indicating that the crew realized they may not be able to stop in the remaining airstrip and attempted to take off again. But it was too late by then. A Boeing 737-800 can stop in 4,500-5,000 feet. The Mangalore runway is 8,000 feet long and even if the pilots had overshot the touchdown point by 2,000 feet, there was enough length left to stop.

"Initial observations reveal the pilots may have attempted to take off again," a source said.

Meanwhile, the aviation ministry has decided to extend Mangalore runway’s length by 1,000 feet.

 Mangalore Plane Crash - Complete Coverage : Click Here

 

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