In the aftermath of the Air India Express plane crash at Kozhikode on Friday that killed 18 people including both pilots, authorities are looking to revive plans to extend the airport’s runway, within the overall constraint of additional land being unavailable for the exercise. Earlier plans to extend the runway ran into hurdles on account of the state government not being able to allocate additional land to the airport developer Airports Authority of India (AAI).
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On Friday, a Boeing 737-800 aircraft with 191 people on board overshot the runway at Kozhikode airport after landing and fell into a 35 feet deep gorge resulting in the aircraft being broken up into three parts. “Options to expand the runway within the constraints are being explored,” a senior government official said.
The runway, which was 2,850-metre long till 2016, was reduced by around 100 m in length to accommodate the runway end safety area (RESA). The RESA at the Kozhikode runway was extended from 90 m in length to 240 m, in accordance with recommendations of the committee that proposed changes following a similar incident in Mangalore back in 2010, which killed 158 people on board. RESA is an area at the end of the runway where the plane can sink in if it overshoots the tarmac.
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Alluding that the plan to acquire additional land for expansion of the runway may face bottlenecks in implementation, the official said that in the wake of the accident, alternate options are being looked at. These may include increasing the available landing distance by reducing the dimensions of other aspects of the runway, or creating an artificial structure on the gorge that is part of the airport land.
The Indian Express reported Sunday that back in 2017, AAI, which manages the airport, had firmed up plans to extend Kozhikode’s 2,750-m runway by 800 m and was awaiting allocation of land by the Kerala government. Sources said that land was not acquired by the state citing high costs and local resistance.
A senior AAI official told The Indian Express that any finality regarding chalking up fresh plans for extending the runway will depend on the report by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), which is investigating the Kozhikode incident.
According to officials tracking the investigation, the ill-fated aircraft touched down with around one-third of the runway already crossed, not leaving the crew with enough distance available to bring the aircraft to a safe halt in time.
However, an official at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said that the visibility and the tailwinds affecting the aircraft were within legal limits and that the investigators were still looking for a cause of the incident.
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