Among many factors that are being highlighted as the ones to have triggered the tragic Mangalore air crash is the point that the Bajpe airport of Mangalore is a “special airport”.
What are “special airports”? Well, “special airports” are usually the ones which are located in hilly and mountainous regions, and also the ones which lie close to water bodies (such as rivers and seas). Landing and take-off activities on such airports are much tougher in comparison to that on other airports, with just a fraction of mistake on the part of the pilot likely to cause serious mishaps. No wonder that only experienced pilots are permitted to take off from or land on “special airports”.
The Bajpe airport was in the list of the “special airports” of India, thanks to its location on a hillock, and its runway being built on a flat stretch of land. Both ends of the runway slope downwards, with its safety area being just of 90 meters against the 300-metre norm.
The other “special airports” of India include the airports in Leh, Kozhikode (or Calicut), Port Blair, Srinagar and Agatti (Lakshadweep).
After the heartbreaking Mangalore mishap the Civil Aviation Ministry and DGCA should take a fresh and analytical look at the existing operational mechanisms that the Indian civil aviation sector adheres to. And one of the issues that they should very seriously look at is whether they should at all retain the use of “special airports”.
Three more issues I will request them to look at.
a.)They should decide whether they will retain the existing bar on “hard landing”. Notably, some experts have pointed out that the existing bar on hard landing might have forced the pilot to try landing in a different way, which eventually resulted in the accident. And significantly “hard landing” is a safe option.
b.)They should also ensure that pilots (and also other crews) get adequate break and rest before flying. This will understandably reduce the possibility of accidents due to pilot fatigue.
c.)Every airline must have a single, toll-free number which can be contacted by relatives and friends on the event of an accident. Every time a plane or rail accident takes place, I find TV channels flashing such “emergency contact nos”, which keep moving away before one notes them down. More importantly, is it possible for a person to sit calmly and watch the TV if he comes to know that the plane or train his relative was traveling has met with an accident? He will be excited, dumbstruck, perplexed, etc. Under such circumstances, it will be very helpful for him or his friends and other relatives to have the ready knowledge of a number where they can contact to make queries about their loved one.