MANGALORE, India, 23 May 2010
One hundred and fifty-eight persons were killed in India’s worst air disaster in over a decade. The Air India Express flight, a plane of Air India’s low budget carrier, was flying from Dubai to Mangalore with 160 passengers and six crew members on board.
On landing the plane overshot the runway, went down a ravine and burst into flames.
Eight persons miraculously survived the crash after the two-and-a-half-year-old Boeing 737-800 with an experienced Serbian pilot in command missed the touchdown area at the 8,000-feet ‘table top’ runway at Mangalore’s Bajpe airport.
Reports indicate the pilot missed the landing spot and flew beyond the touchdown point. In fact, he over shot by over 2,000 feet, which is almost unprecedented.
He then reportedly tried to stop by hard braking. It was at this time that the tyres burst. The plane veered violently, and on the way hit an antenna at the edge of the runaway. At this point, the plane broke and split up at the edge of the runway.
Some lucky ones were thrown out possibly close to the tarmac area. These eight were fortunate to survive.
“The tyre burst the moment the plane landed. There was no scope for escape. The tyre burst the moment the plane landed and overshot the runway and crashed into the forest. Within a few seconds there was a blast. There was smoke. I saw some trees and managed to get out of the plane. Another passenger was trying to escape. I tried to help him out by pushing him out, but he got stuck in the cable. Our hands and faces caught fire. I somehow managed to get out. Some locals helped me reach the hospital. I think there was a problem with the runway. The runway is not smooth because of which the flight shook on landing,” said a survivor.
Seconds later the plane fell into the valley and caught fire. It was 6:05 am.
Then it was simply impossible for anyone to get out. Soon after, Mangalore air officials and nearby villagers rushed to the spot to help survivors.
Some were rescued, but for most it was too late.
Mangalore airport shut down immediately and the entire administration began rescue and relief operations. Air India opened a helpline centre at Delhi Airport.
The Mangalore airport is considered tricky for aircraft landings and take-offs, particularly in the rainy season because it is what is called a “table top” airport.