BASTARDS WHO HAVE BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS

The following is the full text of a press release issued by Environment Support Group, a Bangalore-based NGO, on the air crash in Mangalore.

Doubtless, it represents one side of the story, but it lays bare the complicity of governments at the Centre and in the States, the judiciary in Delhi and Bangalore, local politicians, businesses, corporate bodies—and the apathy of the “general  public”—that resulted in 160-plus lives being snuffed out, and hundreds of families being thrown in disarray.

What it also does is shine the light, and an ugly light at that, on the unquestioning thirst for “development” and the resulting cynicism of those who ask questions and are seen as obstacles in the path to progress.

***

MANGALORE AIR CRASH TRAGIC FALLOUT OF CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE OF PLANNING, REGULATORY AUTHORIES

An Air India Express Boeing 737-800 aircraft arriving from Dubai with 167 on board tragically crashed at Mangalore International Airport at 6.30 am today (22 May 2010). It is reported that the plane overshot the runway while landing and fell over a cliff resulting in this disastrous crash. Very few are known to have survived this horrific crash.

This was no accident, but the direct result of deliberate failure of officials at the highest level in the director general of civil aviation (DGCA), airports authority of India (AAI), ministry of civil aviation, and the government of Karnataka for allowing this second runway to be built in criminal negligence of applicable norms and standards.

Such a strong charge is being made as the likelihood of this kind of a crash (the worst case scenario) was predicted.

A series of public interest litigations (PILs) were fought by the undersigned to stop the construction of this second runway in Mangalore airport on grounds that the design simply did not conform to the most basic national and international standards of airport design.

The PILs also highlighted that the airport does not conform with the most minimum safeguards for emergency situations, particularly during landings and takeoffs, and could not have emergency approach roads within a kilometre on all sides of the airport as required.

It is truly sad that because of the failure of key decision makers at the highest levels so many innocent lives have been lost. It is quite possible that many lives were lost as emergency rescue teams could not access the crash site due to the difficult terrain (a valley) for over a hour after the incident, even though it was proximal to the site.

That such a crash has occurred at the Mangalore airport is unpardonable as a similar crash had occurred at this airport over a decade ago. (Fortunately the plane did not tip over into the valley and all passengers, including Union law minister Veerappa Moily, were fortunate to escape.)

Vimana Nildana Vistharana Virodhi Samithi (local communities alliance against airport expansion), Bajpe, and Environment Support Group had repeatedly highlighted the high risk expansion of the Mangalore airport during the late 1990s. The expansion was proposed to enable flight movements of wide bodied aircrafts, such as Airbus A 320.

Authorities were repeatedly informed that the proposal did not at all conform with the standards prescribed for runway design as laid down by the DGCA, national building code of India and ministry of civil aviation.

Further, considering that the airport was proposed for international flights, a case was also made that the second runway could not conform with international civil aviation authority standards due to terrain limitations.

No one in authority cared to listen to our fervent pleas. This, even when we demonstrated through a variety of representations that that the site chosen for expansion at Bajpe was surrounded by deep valleys on three sides of the runway and did not provide for emergency landing areas as required.

This neglect of our legitimate concerns forced us to move the High Court of Karnataka in a PIL in 1997 (Arthur Pereira and others vs the Union of India and others, WP No. 37681/1997). A key concern raised was that the second runway in Mangalore could not meet the standards required in dealing with an emergency, particularly during landings and takeoffs, a time when air crashes are most likely to happen.

AAI filed an affidavit in Court dismissing all our concerns and stated this, amongst other things:

It is submitted that as regards the apprehensions of the petitioner that the length and width of the runway is insufficient for a plane making an emergency landing, the same is without any basis. It is respectfully submitted that all the requirements as per the ICAO recommendation will be met and that there has been no infringement of any of the recommendation and limitation therein.”

On the basis of this affidavit, hon’ble chief justice Y. Bhaskar Rao and the hon’ble justice A. M. Farooq (as their Lordships then were) dismissed this PIL ordering as follows:

It is stated that the fear of the petitioners that the runway is insufficient for any emergency landing of a plane is without any basis since before the project is to proceed, the authorities will be meeting the recommendations of the ICAO. It is also stated that there is no basis for the allegations made by the petitioners to the effect that the various safety measures have not been followed. That on the other hand they will be getting all the relevant materials described by the petitioners which will be followed in letter and spirit without which the airport would not have been conceived in the first place.

Thus it can be seen that the expansion of Bajpe airport project is at the initial stage and the second respondent has in their objections mentioned above unequivocally stated that all the safety measures etc, stated by the petitioners in their writ petition will be followed during the progress of the project and nothing can be said before the lands are handed over to the second respondent.

Considering these facts, we are of the view that the petitioners have rushed to this court before commencement of the project itself and the writ petition is premature. It is not, therefore, necessary to consider the various grounds taken by the petitioners in the writ petition to allege that the respondents have been proceeding with the project in a casual manner.

There is nothing to doubt about the statement made by the second respondent in their objection statement and we are sure that the respondents will be taking all necessary measures under the different enactments etc.., before proceeding with the project in question. The writ petition stands dismissed.

***

Even though alternative sites existed, the authorities proceeded obstinately to expand the airport yielding to pressures from business, real estate and hotel lobbies who benefited immensely from an airport at Bajpe.

Politicians keen to make the expansion a part of their legacy overlooked all concerns raised. Even at the existing Bajpe alternative sites existed to expand the airport, that conformed with most safety norms, but this site was not pursued as it would affect large landholders and influential people. Consequently, nothing whatsoever was done to respond to the concerns we raised about the risks involved in the second runway.

AAI did not even have a proper feasibility study and claimed that such a critical information detail would only be prepared after the land was acquired for the airport. Surely this amounted to putting the cart before the horse, for the study, even if eventually prepared, would have been tailor made to justify the decision to so expand the airport.

Distressed by such a turn of events and the absolute lack of compliance with applicable norms and standards, we appealed to the ICAO to intervene in the matter. The ICAO claimed did not respond and so we returned to the High Court with a fresh PIL in 2002.

In this exhaustively researched PIL many significant concerns were raised and a case was made that the second runway could not conform with ICAO norms for the following reasons:

Minimum area for stop-way: At page 155 of the said (ICAO) report, para 2-1 prescribes standards for providing the minimum area for a stop way and/or a clear way in the event an aircraft undershoots or overruns the runway. For instance, if an aircraft has initiated take off, and a technical flaw requires emergency stop, the standard prescribes the minimum area that should be kept free to enable such a stop.

In the instant case, the runway distance itself is about 2400 metres, and even if the area left is most cautiously utilised, what is left is only about 300 metres on each end of the runway. By the prescribed standard, this is far below the required distance needed for an emergency stop way.

Therefore, the chances of an aircraft that has achieved the decision speed forcing an emergency stop are critically minimised, and the inevitable consequence could be that the plane would come crashing down the hillsides from a height of 80-100 metres on either side of the proposed runway.

(This safety standard of ICAO also applies to air crafts when landing. It is truly sad that today’s tragic air crash could be a consequence of the lack of conformance with this standard.)

The High Court of Karnataka dismissed this PIL initiative by their order dated 27 May 2002 (WP 20905/2002) stating the following:

No doubt, in an appropriate case, this Court can issue directions, if there is gross violation of fundamental rights or if the issue touches the conscience of this Court, but not for personal gain or political gain. The construction of second runway and terminal tower in Mangalore Airport will otherwise be in the interest of public.

Learned counsel has not been able to show how the construction of second runway and terminal tower in Mangalore Airport will be against the public interest. On consideration and in the facts of the given case no direction as prayed for can be issued in this PIL.

The authorities concerned have to complete all formalities as per law before commencement of the project. Accordingly, this Writ petition is dismissed. However, it is made clear that dismissal of this petition will not preclude the concerned Authorities to take all necessary precaution and to complete the formalities as per law before proceeding with the project in question.

In a desperate effort to stop the Mangalore airport from so expanding and needlessly exposing innocent people to unnecessary risk, we went on appeal against the High Court order to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court ruled 07 February 2003 in Environment Support Group and others. vs. Union of India and others [SLP(C) 1172 OF 2003] as follows:

We see no reason to interfere with the impugned order. Accordingly, the special leave petition is dismissed. We, however, clarify that in constructing the airport, the Government shall comply with all applicable laws and also with environmental norms.

One hopes with the benefit of hindsight that the DGCA or AAI had complied with this order of the Supreme Court and ensured Mangalore airport was developed in full conformance with applicable laws, standards and norms. In case the current site was not feasible, they could have easily explored alternate sites, as such sites did exist – within Bajpe itself, or even in Padubidri, between Mangalore and Udupi.

Instead, the authorities preferred to view the Supreme Court order as a victory, as did the Karnataka Government and Mangalore Chamber of Commerce and Industry which had systematically campaigned for the expansion.

Without any further hesitation the second runway construction began in 2004 and was commissioned in May 2006. No techno-economic assessment, feasibility study, or even an comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment was ever done for the second runway. Simply put, the runway was built in comprehensive violation of applicable laws, standards and direction of the Supreme Court.

On 8 March 2004, we wrote to Dr. Naseem Zaidi, chairman (additional charge) & joint secretary, AAI, ministry of civil aviation, reminding him of the need to comply with the Supreme Court direction.

In particular we highlighted that:

…such action would jeopardize passenger safety, put local communities to risk, needlessly dislocate people by acquiring land on a location that in no way could comply with the said provisions and thereby contributed to gross wastage of public money and resources.

We did not get any response.

Six years later today we are mourning the unfortunate death of so many people who should have been alive. We are clear that this is no accident, but a direct result of the series of deliberate failures of officials and key decision makers at the highest levels of all authorities connected with the decision to allow the 2nd runway to be constructed and commissioned. Of course all sorts of explanations will be on offer, but none of that can bring lost lives back or cure the tragedy that has wrongly befallen so many families.

India today is frenetically building airports all over, and for all sorts of flaky reasons. Such is the political, bureaucratic and corporate pressure to build and expand airports that anyone questing the rationale is quickly dubbed as a “busybody”, “useless interloper”, “promoted by vested interest” and raising “frivolous” concerns.

To ensure such incidents do not recur, we demand that the Union minister of civil aviation orders an impartial commission of enquiry into the causative factors of this crash, especially investigating the absolute lack of conformance with basic runway design standards and emergency approach measures.

As a small tribute to those who lost their lives in this tragic air crash, ESG offers to assist crash affected families to initiate a damage suits against the Government. We will also initiate criminal negligence proceedings against all authorities connected with the decision to commission the second runway at Mangalore in violation of the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

We take these corrective actions in the hope they would serve as a deterrence against the lackadaisical approach to critical decisions by key decision makers.

***

Leo F. Saldanha, coordinator, ESG, phone: 9448377403, leo@esgindia.org
Arthur Pereira, trustee, ESG and spokesperson Vimana Nildhana Vistarana Virodhi Samithi, Bajpe,
Mangalore, phones: 9449208264/9481439921, arthurjpereira@gmail.com

Photographs: Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel, with member of Parliament D.V. Sadananda Gowda at the site of the crash (top); survivors who were thrown out of the aircraft after it split (Karnataka Photo News)

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59 Responses to “BASTARDS WHO HAVE BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS”

  1. Padmanabhan Bhaskaran Says:

    This is really pathetic…! When will India change towards strict compliance of norms in terms of everything. Be it safety standards, security checks, etc. The rich and influential flout all norms for their vested interests.

  2. Pelican Says:

    nearly the same number of people have been killed as in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Kasab gets death. People responsible for the badly planned runway should get the same sentence.

  3. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    Our worthies say “In the instant case, the runway distance itself is about 2400 metres, and even if the area left is most cautiously utilised, what is left is only about 300 metres on each end of the runway. By the prescribed standard, this is far below the required distance needed for an emergency stop way.”

    1. According to the AIP, the runway length is 2450×45 metres and not 2400. 50 metres is a lot.

    http://www.aai.aero/public_notices/MANGALORE_amendment.pdf

    The actual strip is 2570×150 metres. So it’s another 120 metres available before you drop off the end.

    http://www.aai.aero/public_notices/(VOML_17)-TypeA06-24(BW).pdf

    2. ICAO prescribes 300 metres for the RSA.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runway_safety_area

    I wonder how this makes it “far below the required distance”.

    Anyway, this is moot if the airplane actually fell off the side of the runway instead of the end.

    3. One source that I checked for the landing distance for a 737-800 (the biggest model) on a wet runway is 6675 feet, which converts to about 2000 metres. This is the distance needed to come to a full stop. That means about 20% of the runway would have been left in Bajpe.

    4. There very well could have been any number of safety issues at the airport, but the key is to find if any of them contributed to this accident. Somehow, I have my doubts.

  4. Sudhir Says:

    Of course these issues need to be investigated & the guilty punished. But Air India has to fix a whole lot of bugs before it can be considered a safe airline. Maybe the flight that crashed was a new one. Otherwise Air India has a fleet that is old and seriously needs replacement. There have been numerous occasions when flights have either been grounded or inordinately delayed due to technical snags. Also only Indian Airlines/Air India aircraft have crashed since private players came in, with the lone exception being the Sahara aircraft crash in Delhi.
    Considering the financial mess the airline is in, it’s time they shut it down or sold it.

  5. harkol Says:

    Have taken flights to/from Mangalore airport a couple of dozen times and I have been telling everyone who cared, precisely this.

    Mangalore Airport is unusual to say the least. It is on top of a hill and is scary when you land or take off.. Smaller aircrafts probably manage ok, but big ones can be in trouble if they miss the touchdown spot. You can’t expect an metronomic accuracy from human pilots everytime.

    Shucks! Just think of How connected is Mangalore is to rest of Karnataka… Bangalore/Mysore/Hubli??

    Railway takes 12 hours to haul my ass from Bangalore to Mangalore! Slightly less to mysore, and somewhat similar time to Hubli.
    In just above 15hrs you can be in Mumbai for heavens sake.

    Road may take between 9-12hrs depending on time of the year and the roads.Going by car is both dangerous, bad for your car (roads are bad most of the time) and takes minimum of 8-9hrs.

    Airport scary as hell for the way it is perched on hilltop. Expensive for a short flight, and too painful to make a journey to far off airport in Bangalore (and then in Mangalore)..

    Looks like Mangalore is cursed!

    ***

    Sudhir:
    >That means about 20% of the runway would have been left in Bajpe.

    What we are missing here is not if the runway conforms to the length needed to land.

    What matters is, when a error of judgement or a problem pushes the aircraft beyond the runway (or before the runway).

    In Most airports you’ll run of into some unprepared open ground, or even to a wall or a building.

    In Mangalore, you fall off a cliff of 100meters (equivalent to a 30floor building).

  6. ERR Says:

    It is hard to understand why they scrimp on land needed for landing an aircraft when they spend so much on the Airport, the Planes, infrastructure, training, fuel etc? How can Mangalore Airport be an international Airport when each and every time the plane lands, the pilots have morbid fear of overshooting the runway, because there isn’t any land left on the top of the Hill? How many such airstrips have similar problems of shorter runways?Mysore is in a hurry to start air service soon, but does it have enough runway space?
    Finally, How can flights resume in Mangalore? shouldn’t Mangalore airport be closed until they rectify the problem of insufficient runway…???

  7. Dr Kiran Acharya Says:

    ERR, there is no land at the end of runway! It is a table top!!!- which earns the title of “most dangerous airport” in the world…
    Mr Srinivas Mallya, then congress MP was in favour of getting airport closer to Mangalore than Padubidri, closer to Udupi…due to strong political/ business lobbies in Mangalore…
    so we have an airport, which can not be expanded at any cost! (as a rule landing strip can not be made like a flyover)

  8. armugam Says:

    what you have put out is appreciable. but this saldhana guy is not very credible, we should carefully examine if these are half truths.

  9. Adi Says:

    Praful Patel and Arvind Jhadav are nincompoops. India is so politically driven any position of responsibility be it political or be it in the industry donot warrant just qualifications. Such incompetence should be dismissed instantly.

  10. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    Harkol, going by your logic, we should have runways that are 5kms long everywhere, just in case.

    You can have an accident with a runway of any length. The airports in Mumbai, Dubai, New York (both JFK and LGA), San Francisco all have runways jutting into the ocean, or are right next to it. The result of an overrun there is a watery grave. How do you solve those problems?

    Midway airport in Chicago is in the middle of the city and has runways that are about 2000 feet shorter than the one in Bajpe. It is mainly used by Southwest Airlines which operates an all Boeing 737 fleet. The airport is at a higher elevation than Bajpe (about 700 feet versus 300 feet) which means a slightly longer takeoff and landing roll, and operates year round including in the absolutely freezing Midwestern winter where runways and airplanes are frequently frozen over with ice. Going by the assumption that safety standards in the US are higher than in India, one would wonder why this airport is still open. It is not considered an unsafe airport and about 8 million passengers use it every year.

    Could this accident have been avoided with a longer runway? Probably. Should we blame the runway length for the accident? Probably not. And that is my point.

  11. Pagan Says:

    See the tragic pics.
    Now imagine our civil aviation minister brokering a deal between 2 IPL franchises in his bungalow over a peg of whiskey.

  12. Rupesh Rao Says:

    Airport has been operational since 1960s and this is first /major/ accident.

    Boeing 737s have operated to Mangalore for at least 20 years now.

    Agreed, 737-800 is bigger and lands “fast”, but fact is this type of aircraft has operated Mangalore for years without any problem.

    So bottomline – hundreds, if not thousands of take offs and landings have taken place in Mangalore without any problem – so why blame the runway?

    Leo Saldhanha is known as a real estate stooge in Mangalore and a busy body who goes to court every single development project – he credibility is highly questionable and should not be taken as fact.

    Fact is that planes have landed thousands of times in same Mangalore airport without any problem and runway is not an issue.

  13. Manivannan Says:

    The point made my Gokulam 3rd stage is well taken. And it puts the issue in right perspective.

    ‘Could this accident have been avoided with a longer runway? Probably. Should we blame the runway length for the accident? Probably not. And that is my point.’

    But, is it not what Saldana is saying? He is saying that a longer runway, no, not even a runway, little more land would have averted the accident. And that’s what safety is all about. isn’t? (avoiding accidents)

    Now, who and what is to be blamed for the accident is another question, which only experts can answer, after the enquiry.

  14. Nastika Says:

    @Pagan
    What do you expect? Civil aviation minister to pilot & land every flight safely?
    How could he prevented this accident?

    @Gokulam 3rd Stage
    I agree. Bajpe airport meets the safety requirements of aviation standard of any country. The fact is that strip was used for many years. The same aircraft has landed & taken off before.

    This time it met an accident. Reasons? Need to find out from the black box, ie after investigation.

  15. sandeep singh Says:

    u shud bring out the names of all the principle characters who have blood on their hand. nameless hall of shame means little until those bastards are mentioned in public over blogs, twitter and elsewhere on the net. to hell with the self-serving media. please do us all countrymen a favour: publish a post with all those names and designations, and also mention what they did or did not do specifically.

  16. harkol Says:

    Rupesh:

    >so why blame the runway?

    It isn’t the runway that’s blamed, it is the location.

    There are many instances of Planes overrunning the runway. A study indicated that approx. 30% of all plane accidents involve Overrunning of Runway.

    But in most cases, these don’t amoun to big casualties, because even if you overrun a runway, there are other protective measures (like open land or water etc.)

    Expecting high degree of accuracy, without something going wrong once in a few thousand flights isn’t a good idea – when human life is involved.

    **

    Gokulam:

    >Harkol, going by your logic, we should have runways that are 5kms long everywhere, just in case.

    No.. The idea of a runway is for safe repeated landing of aircraft with limited wear and tear.

    The idea of an manageable overrun area is to make sure human lives are saved, even if aircraft is ruined. More like ABS and Airbags in cars…

    In each case where an overrun happens on land or water, your chances of survival is better than it plunging a 100meters…

    >Midway airport in Chicago is in the middle of the city and has runways that are about 2000 feet shorter than the one in Bajpe.

    He he he!!

    I have been to chicago many times and you don’t get scared landing in Chicago-Midway, the way it happens in Mangalore (I am a mangalorean).

    Besides, you apparently know nothing of Midway airport and the number of Skid-off/Rollover and Overrun accidents it has had! That’s because there haven’t been disasters like Mangalore with huge casualties.

    You know why? Because after runway is a road, and then there are some lowlying, wood constructed buildings..

    If the following accident had happened in Mangalore instead of MDW, almost all would’ve been dead!!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southwest_Airlines_Flight_1248

    ***

    Gokulam:

    How about this : http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Southwest_Airlines_flight_skids_off_runway_at_Chicago%27s_Midway

    >Could this accident have been avoided with a longer runway?

    Again you are totally misunderstanding the problem. Problem isn’t the length of runway. It is what happens if you slip-off or overrun the runway..

    For example, In Mangalore if you skid-off the runway and go sideways, the length is a few hundred meters, before you Plunge down 100-150meters.. Isn’t that stupid?

    Check this video of landing in Mangalore airport… Watch @2.20, you can see the sideways margin of error is very, very, very less…

    You must wonder, if pilots are meant to be circus artists (well even they have a safety net below)..

    **

    To further illustrate the point. Check this photo & articles below.

    >http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photos/051209/051209_planecrash_runway_vmed.widec.jpg

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10396893/

    The reason why Mangalore pilot had to break hard was because he was aware that he made a mistake in landing spot, thus he’d overrun. Having done landings before in Mangalore, he’d have been aware of the plunge the aircraft will take in case of over-run…

    So, He breaked hard, plane wobbled, veered off the runway, hit a building caused a fire in the process, pilot lost all control, and it fell off the cliff..

    Ofcourse, all this information isn’t confirmed but as per the survivors and experts analyzing footage…

    If Pilot knew there was land/road/water after the airport boundary, he need not have panicked and lost control. The plane would’ve been destroyed, and perhaps a couple of dozen folks may have died – not all…

    **

    Here is a take off Video from Mangalore, that illustrates the precipice that awaits the passengers, in all the directions, should pilot make even a small error.

  17. Vince Ullal Says:

    Let us not be emotional here and heed to blame game, “I told you so” of some lawyers like Leo Saldanha and team aiming for quick bucks.

    Simple question to “I told you so”, “Table top runway is to blame” conspiracy theorists – If politicians and judges knew runway at risk why would they fly there regularly? Which fool would risk his own life if he knew runway is dangerous?

    I used to work in Mangalore airport and everyday we saw key decision makers, ministers, judges flying through that airport- many of them on their way to numerous religious places that dot coastal Karnataka. Surely they would avoid flying if they knew it was risky?

    Blame politicians for all you want and for all ills of this country, but to suggest that some how govt and politicians/courts intentionally turned blind eye and aided dangerous runway construction is ridiculous.

    Just read last two paragraphs of Leo Saldanha and his “let us oppose everything” ‘we told you so” (even broken clock is right twice a day) self styled ESG and you can understand where he and his ambulance chase lawyers are coming from.

  18. PG Says:

    Gokulam,

    Extremely happy to see such concrete research. Government-bashing is a national sport but seeing that you have taken the time to pull up facts is heartening.

    Praful Patel may be held guilty for a lot of things, but this does not seem to be one of them.

  19. tsubba Says:

    it is very easy to get charged up about airline disasters and call people bastards and what not. in one shot 160 people died.

    on an average 312 people die each day all over india on its ill designed, badly constructed, hardly maintained, poorly manned, poorly regulated roads.

    airlines concentrated effect.
    roads distributed effect. one guy here, one guy there.

    airlines high glamour coefficient. talks of tens of lakhs in compensation.
    hapless guy on luna moved down by a lorry or a bus or a car. or just plain bounces off a pothole and lands on his head. what glamour? would not even get 1000rs in compensation.
    and nobody would call anybody bastard.

    i’m not saying hapless passengers of this flight should not be grienved, compensated or get justice. i’m only saying the rest of us should pay same attention, vent the same level of manufactured angst.

    G3S,
    you know and understand the details and workings so you will be rational about facts. the rest of us are in for the emotional ride. facts get in the way for us. gumpal govinda antidvalla hange namdella. none of us will loose any sleep and two days from now we will be expressing our moral disgust at some other issue.

  20. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Very sad! This is a very good site: http://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/415912-air-india-express-b738-crash-2.html

    Check it out!

  21. Dr Kiran Acharya Says:

    Arm chair aviation experts, please take note:
    Mangalore airport is now 60 year old.
    From the past 4 years there have been more than 32,000 landings.
    Accidents by definition are not intentional.
    However air crashes get the coverage for being spectacular.
    We should leave the analysis to the investigators, before jumping into conclusions.
    As pointed by some reader, self styled environmentalists with doubtful integrity have caused more harm to our country than the environmental disasters!

  22. Anonymous Guy Says:

    tsubba,

    Good points. Maybe we pay attention only when people like ourselves suffer. Who cares about the guy on luna.

    Wish the underlying problem behind the air crash is fixed.

  23. harkol Says:

    Vince Ullal:
    >Which fool would risk his own life if he knew runway is dangerous?

    I did! and that doesn’t make me a fool.

    I know that there is a 1/100 chance that each roadtrip I make to Mangalore will result in an accident. But, I won’t stop doing road trip, that doesn’t mean I want that odds to be reduced further down.

    The point is having the airport on a hill top was unwarranted in Mangalore. And saying so isn’t about blame game, it is about not wanting to perpetuate a mistake done some 40 years back.

    ***

    Kiran Acharya:
    >Accidents by definition are not intentional.

    But, that doesn’t make accidents acceptable. We have atrocious records in safety in almost all spheres. Road/Railways/Airports even Buildings. Asking for them to be fixed is doesn’t make some one sinister.

    How about the carlton towers fire in Bangalore? Surely that wasn’t intentional too..

  24. Pagan Says:

    Nastika,

    My only point was that some of our ministers are busy in doing all things other than their assigned work.
    As tsubba has pointed out for most of us it is an emotional ride.

  25. Indu Ramesh Says:

    As Dr.Acharya says, Accidents, by definition are not intentional. Please wait for the investigation to be complete, let us see what the real experts say and then start the blame game. A friend of mine said yesterday that the accident could have been the result of a bomb placed on the tarmac!. I shut him up. But I am sure by now at least 20 persons have been convinced of his idea.

  26. Pagan Says:

    Regarding most of us reacting differently to a luna accident and a plane crash -

    maybe that’s how human mind works? It likes magnificence. Everyday people get killed by terrorists in Kashmir. How do we react? Not even candle marches or dossiers. But a Mumbai like attack gets all the attention. why? Because of the scale of attack. If 100 lunas are run over by 10 lorries at the same time, then it will catch our attention. Are our minds hardwired to act like this? The reaction of the mind is proportional to the magnitude and frequency of the event.

    Churumuri has 7 posts about this accident. What if 2 people had died and not 158?

  27. harkol Says:

    >What if 2 people had died and not 158?

    Yes!

    That’s the crux of the matter. If the plane had overshot the runway, but not fallen of the cliff, 158 people wouldn’t have died, and it may not have caused this much of anguish.

    **

    >Praful Patel may be held guilty for a lot of things, but this does not seem to be one of them.

    The basic trouble with the new runway at Mangalore is that, they wanted to build it at the same place at the old airport. It isn’t too much to ask for a good airport.

    I keep hearing arguments like there are more tougher runways in India – which is true. But, all of them are in hilly regions where you won’t get a longish flat land for building the airport. Not so in Mangalore. with a bit of effort you’ll be able to identify places, that are flat and wide for 8-10km.

    It was just that the cost factors, and ofcourse vested interests that came in the way..

  28. Gouri Satya Says:

    Gokulam, informative posting. My question is when a safer site is available alternatively why build a table top, and risk the lives of air passengers.

  29. babuds Says:

    GS3, Thanks for the info, because of which we know

    1.Mangalore is a hill station like Simla, where plain land is not available and only we can have a Table Top airport there.

    2. DCGA is run by a bunch of knowledgeable saints with halo who have approved the air strip with all the standards you have mentioned.

    But the link given by DB gives counterviews about DCGA. Read the extact below:
    ——————————————
    This is just the start of things to come in Indian aviation. The likes of 9W, KF are not far, as training standards are eroded to the point of embarassment.

    What is not helping is the climate offered by the regulatory body (DGCA) which is run by a bunch of incompetant people that only have ‘union’ experience. Their only way to control aviation in India is by fear and corruption. Due to archaic regulatory processes, AIC’s are issued with no thought. The people in control are tyrants who love their image and are way beyond their depths. SAFETY is no consideration because they do not know what it actualy means. Their own operation needs scrutiny before they can legislate. As long as they continue these sycophants will drive Indian aviation further into the ground.
    —————————————————————————

    :)

  30. Shetty R Says:

    Praful Patel did not quit earlier when there were allegations of massive amounts of corruption in civil aviation privatization. More recently he refused to quit again when IPL targeted corruption was revealed and his daughter was proven to personally run Indian Airlines according to her and IPL’s needs!

    Despite the resignation letter drama’s now common within this Govt, the same crooked politician who is currently shedding crocodile tears, will surely continue despite the worst tragedy in a decade and the loss of almost 160 innocent life’s and children

    In no other country will any person with an iota of shame and responsibility will hold on to power and wealth in such circumstances.

  31. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    babuds,

    “GS3, Thanks for the info, because of which we know

    1.Mangalore is a hill station like Simla, where plain land is not available and only we can have a Table Top airport there.

    2. DCGA is run by a bunch of knowledgeable saints with halo who have approved the air strip with all the standards you have mentioned.

    But the link given by DB gives counterviews about DCGA. Read the extact below:”

    Please tell me where I claimed anything about land being available or not available in Mangalore. Also, please tell me where I claimed anything about the DGCA being competent.

    For that matter, I completely agree with the comments on pprune about aviation safety in India. I thought what we were discussing was the immediate cause of the crash. My contention is that the immediate cause is pilot error and not the DGCA, the runway length, the nationality of the pilot, the gotra of the copilot, the vastu of the new terminal building in Mangalore, the kaala and galige at which that airplane was bought, the logic of the seating arrangements, the availability of land elsewhere for the airport, the existential questions of whether we need air travel at all, terrorism…..and so on.

    General DGCA incompetence aside, of the things the DGCA controls,
    1. The airplane was airworthy
    2. The pilots were rated appropriately (both for the aircraft and for the particular airport since Mangalore needs a special endorsement) current and competent (with about 13000 hours of flying between them)
    3. The runway was long enough for this particular airplane model
    4. The RSA was long enough as per ICAO standards
    5. ATC was functional and worked fine

    One thing that they don’t control, the weather, was fine too.

    The question is, which of these could the DGCA have slipped up on and contributed to the crash? Which of these could the pilots have slipped up on?

    ***

    harkol,

    I am very well aware of Midway airport, and those very accidents that you cite. If you had bothered to read them, you would have seen that the cause of those accidents was not determined to be short runways. One of them is still under investigation, and the other one is done. The one that is completed talks about the pilots’ decision to land on a runway with snow and a tailwind which dramatically increased his landing distance beyond the runway length. No amount of runway length will help you against a stupid decision in any phase of flight.

    But no, you insist you know better because you have been a passenger there! As for all the videos, what are they supposed to prove? If you as a passenger are scared of those approaches, does that mean it is dangerous? Some logic! And media speculations about those crashes are about worth as much as your expert opinion here.

    Simple logic will tell you that this crash probably happened not because the runway was too short, but because the pilots ensured that it was too short.

    “Again you are totally misunderstanding the problem. Problem isn’t the length of runway. It is what happens if you slip-off or overrun the runway..”

    And whatever happened with this overrun off a 8500′ runway could happen with an overrun off a 15000′ runway in the same place. Then what? What about all those “unsafe” airports that have runways jutting into the water? What happens if you overrun those? Do we have a “harkol rule” and say those should be moved or shut down?

    ts, yen madodu saar, naavirode heege.

    DB, you had to go and add some more voices of reason hadn’t you! But don’t you know? All those pilots on pprune are a)foreign b)professional c)actually pilots, so what do they know? :)

    Gouri Satya, you will risk lives in air travel with any kind of runway in any location. Was a safer site indeed available? The “safer” and “available” part there needs more elaboration. Who determined the safety of this new location? How exactly was it “available”?

    My prediction: At the end of all this both the runway/airport and the fact that the pilot was an expat will get maximum coverage as somehow contributing to the accident. The real estate lobby and the pilots unions will take care of both the issues. Sadly, what could have been a constructive debate on commercial aviation safety in India (which is lacking in many ways) gets derailed by the kinds of emotional rants we see here.

  32. harkol Says:

    Here is an interesting perspective by an Aeronautical engineer with 30year involvement with Mangalore Airport itself. He says they had suggested a metalic runway to extend the current runway, so that in case of a overrun a plane doesn’t have to fall on a gorge..

    So, it wasn’t like people who worked there hadn’t thought of this possibility. But, they were denied the 200crore that was needed for that project!!

    http://news.rediff.com/report/2010/may/23/cant-blame-the-pilot-when-safety-infrastructure-not-in-place.htm

  33. Dr Kiran Acharya Says:

    Harkol, agree with your last comment.
    First goof up: Having an airport at Bajpe, when it could have been at Padubidri (it would have been future ready)- it also would have avoided the power plant coming up at Padubidri- this sin was comitted by politicians and businessmen from Mangalore at the time of Srinivas Mallya` tenure as MP
    Second goof up: Investing on an airport, whose future expansions are nearly impossible due to its location-comitted by real estate forces, who have invested a lot near Bajpe…

  34. mysore peshva Says:

    thanks for the informative reading, dear g3s.

  35. Manivannnan Says:

    Gokulam 3rd stage:

    I have been reading your knowledgeable and logical arguments. I agree with most of what you have been saying. But, i differ from you on one point.

    I agree with you that the cause ‘appears’ to be pilots error. I had discussion with an Air Marshal of IAF, who also was of the same view. I also agree that, even 5km of runway can’t avoid an accident, if the pilot makes a error.

    But, don’t you think that, availability of overrun area/land would have reduced the causalities substantially, exactly as in the case of MDW! I agree with Harkol on this.

    Pilots are humans, and they err. Thats why, safety precautions are a must to take care of such situations. No system which deals with human life, can be designed and approved by sane men, where there is no room for absorbing the human error. (i mean error, not mistake! There is a difference!)

    Thus, there appears to be a lapse in planning the runway without keeping provision for overrun area, considering the fact that, it is not impossible to find alternative land.

    More than political leaders, I would blame the officials involved, as they are the persons who have the last say in the planning and execution.

    But, yes, i agree with Gokulam again. ‘this accident have been avoided with a longer runway? Probably. Should we blame the runway length for the accident? Probably not.’

    Wish we had a longer runway/overrun area.

  36. GNN Says:

    Gokulam 3rd Stage: Your posts are quite informative. From the information available as of now, it may be a pilot error, unless there was a mechanical problem which is yet to be ascertained. You being a pilot, what do you think would have happened and what would you do to avoid the crash?

  37. Somebody Says:

    How come nobody discusses train or road accidents?!!! Why no lengthy article is wirtten on train accidents?! !! The lives of those who die in train and road accidents appear to be cheaper than those who fly.

  38. ashok Says:

    The title for this article is apt. There is no better word for these bureaucrats

    In spite of strong opposition form the good samaritan saldanha the authorities went ahead with it. It is criminal.

    The fact that the proposed run way is admist the plots of politicians and businessmen whereas the constructed runway was occupied by dalits was only plausible reason and greed for this decision. Suitcases would have been exchanged for a verdict against this PIL.

  39. Ashoka Says:

    If the Mangalore airport is not upto the safety benchmarks, then flights should be stopped from immediate effect.

    A committee of aviation experts be constituted to review and do the needful at the earliest, which will avert future disasters.

  40. harkol Says:

    Gokulam:
    >a tailwind which dramatically increased his landing distance beyond the runway length

    Bottomline – The overruns can happen, short runway or otherwise. That is why it is important not to have a huge gorge waiting for you, in case it happens.

    ***

    Gokulam:
    >Do we have a “harkol rule” and say those should be moved or shut down?

    This is not a Harkol rule.. This is just common sense that if you have flat land available, use that instead of a place which overshoots down.

    Running into water or Sand typically slows down the aircraft and acts as a break – increasing chances of survival. Falling from a cliff of 100meters doesn’t.

    You can abuse me and my logic all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that you don’t keep a airport on a hill, unless no other land is available. That isn’t the case in Mangalore.

    I suspect neither you are an airport expert. Read this article -http://news.rediff.com/report/2010/may/23/cant-blame-the-pilot-when-safety-infrastructure-not-in-place.htm

    That is by an expert who worked in Mangalore airport and AAI for 30 years before retiring.. Check what he has to say.

    **

    Manivannan:
    >Should we blame the runway length for the accident?

    Who is blaming Runway length? I don’t think that’s the argument at all.. The argument is against expectations of Pilots to be trapeze artists

    ***

    Gokulam:

    I went thru all your posts again, and perhaps we are talking of two seperate things here.

    My concerns and criticism are regarding the safety and location of Mangalore airport, while your argument seems to be the adequacy of the runway in Mangalore. Perhaps the runway is indeed adequate per standards.

    I am unsure if I crossed a line with you while arguing my point of view. If you feel I was being too harsh, accept my apologies.

  41. babuds Says:

    G3S, I thought the OP is mainly about the unsuitability of Bajpe ‘Table Top’ airport for expansion to have a 2nd runway.

    The OP may rightly or wrongly have ascribed this accident to the insistence of local real estate interests and controlling bodies such as DCGA. Though DCGA is well aware of the PIL, it still went ahead of the Bajpe Airport expansion ignoring the possibility of an alternate site which might have more margin for pilot errors than a steep 100 m fall.

    That is all I wanted to say and no offense meant.

  42. Andy Says:

    From what i know Leo Saldanha is perhaps NOT the most credible folks around. So, i will take what he says with a big pinch of salt.

    In this case, he comes across as an ambulance chaser

  43. Nastika Says:

    From the reports I concur that Bajpe airport did have the overrun area.
    In few airports the overrun area leads to extended open fields. In few it leads to inhabited cities, sea. In Bajpe it led to a cliff.

    If the plane catches fire (like it did in Bajpe), then no amount of overrun area can save the passengers.

  44. harkol Says:

    Andy:
    >Leo Saldanha is perhaps NOT the most credible folks

    A concept need not be discredited just because the person who brings it up is not credit worthy..

  45. Khan Says:

    The recurring theme being saldanah is “not credible”, WTF is that???

    Shouldn’t our concerns be whether he is raising relevant questions or not!, but then again ……..

  46. harkol Says:

    A retired Senior executive of Air India says

    “In 2006 when the new international terminal was inaugurated, I was a guest of honour. I had suggested that the runway be made a bit longer. However more than that what I wanted done was to lower the airfield and get more flat area.”

    - Vishwanath Mala, who has flown for 15 years and worked with Air-India for above 35 years.

    http://news.rediff.com/report/2010/may/25/opilots-should-focus-only-on-flying-says-ex-pilot.htm

  47. Dr Kiran Acharya Says:

    Saldanha is a “for rent activist”. That is why the credibility is at stake. Even if the argument put forward by him was valid, due to the lack of credibility, it sounds more like a propaganda – one sided!

  48. Manivannan Says:

    Harkol:

    We are saying the same. I agree with you on the point that overruns occur either due to pilot error or external reasons. Hence, we need to have flat area and not gorges waiting.

    I agree with you on Leo Saldanha too.

    ***

    Harkol:

    We are saying the same! My point is that, any infrastructure or system, should have room for absorbing the human error to some extent. This ‘extent’ or ‘safety-net’ in Mangalore seems to be almost nil.

    Thats the point. How did the officials concerned clear it? This is what i am trying to tell Gokulam also. There may have been a pilot error. But, if we had some more area, like in most of the airports in the world, then the accident would have been a minor one.

    What was the need to go for a ‘table top’ when it was not impossible to find alternative land?

  49. Gouri Satya Says:

    Harkol: I agree with you on the need to go for a ‘table top, when an alternative land could have been located. That is what exactly I said in my earlier posting. “My question is when a safer site is available alternatively why build a table top, and risk the lives of air passengers?” The AAI should have known that a pilot error could lead a plane to a gorge, and instead of yielding to pressures, should have gone in for a safer site, where errors would not lead to a major mishap.

  50. ashok Says:

    @ Harkol & Gauri

    The only reason why the available alternative was not worked out is that it houses the plots of rich and influential while the one we have was under dalits. Lot of lobbying might have taken place and suitcases exchanged to shun the alternative.

  51. Madhusudan Rao Says:

    I have heard of other issues as well:

    a) the pilot. Why was the pilot recruited from outside India, when there are so many pilots available within the country. Reason is that Praful Patel’s wife is running an organization which recruits external pilots. See where this nexus is going?

    b) communication of the pilot. These people from Eastern Europe speak English in an accent that is not clear to the others. This could have created a mis-communication as well.

  52. Kennedy Says:

    Whether an underpass, flyover, road widening or airport, the Govt has paid no heed to the public or expert opinion. In most cases they are not feasible, viz., the first three in Bangalore and the airport at Mysore. When the Govt can be foolish in spending Rs.120 crs for Mys Apt where no one wants to fly, the same Govt compromises on a flourishing Apt at Mangalore by not spending on the required infrastructure, either a metallic runway or a Greenfield Apt. This means, no one in the Govt has understood what an Airport is! Or the lobbies have held sway.

    A table-top few kms away from the coast will be under cloud cover for most part of the year and ideal for small crafts. Flights to Mangalore gets delayed or diverted during peak monsoon. And table top ports are built ONLY where no flat land is available. And Mangalore has plenty of it.

    Neither Leo nor Arthur has opposed development of MLR APT. As the name of organization suggests, they have opposed the expansion at Bajpe. And rightly so. The whole world knows the reason now; unfortunately we had to pay a heavy price.

    The runway might be perfectly alright. The skies can be absolutely clear to land. But giving no room for human misjudgments is bad planning. Afterall, overshooting the runway is not as bad as having built a busy Apt on a hill and expect things to be alright.

    The families waiting at the lobby or even on the road outside the terminal ( I have used this Airport) that included kids waiting for parents, some waiting for their father, some for their brothers and sisters having watched the plane landing would have felt the excitement of holding on to their loved ones. Not to be. That’s cruel. The lobbyists, be it politicians, businessmen, land mafia, contractors, et al…will they feel guilty of this crime? Let them look at those orphaned kids, bereaved families…can they feel the pain? It could have happened to them.

  53. Doddi Buddi Says:

    For the nth time, can we all agree that it is time to move on?!! The government should build a new airport on flat land so that bigger airplanes can land safely even making some allowance for an occasional pilot error. Till then the outraged angels, ‘rent-an-activist’ types, ambulance chasers, ‘doing-good-by-stealth’ types, armchair theorists, plain morons, good morons, bad morons, can shut it and focus on Maoist rebellion that is killing India. Thanks!

  54. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    I want to see a more graphic, emotion-ridden caption for the article. Wonder why so many correspondents hardly follow the lead and use self-righteous idiom to condemn everybody supposedly involved in the creation of the airport that our dear puribhatti has concocted.

  55. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    DB–

    Don’t forget the ten thousand rupees per life on the spot compensation, enough money for out of town families to spend three days at a Mangaluru hotel and travel back home with some change in pocket.

    Accountability is not our prominent social characteristic. Even if those illegitimate offspring with hemoglobin on their hands are identified and criminally charged, nothing will ever come of it. Wasn’t the daughter of a former fascist chief minister acquitted of a murder charge day before yesterday? Were Arasu around today as CM, there wouldn’t be a single gun-toting Naxalite in our hill districts. Our man from Somanahalli, who prostrated before Veerappan for all to see, would simply not have acknowledged the inhumanity of the landed gentry grabbing every inch of land everywhere.

    Allegiance to money and jaathi is our undoing. Even before the Halappa case coming up for a hearing, some members of his community are crying conspiracy and demanding his release.

  56. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Tigers Whiskers The Ultimate,

    Yes agree with you totally! Our man from Somanahalli continues his impressive unimpressive form. I think instead of continuing with the farce of trying the political types through our justice system, the government should simply announce a general amnesty to all politicians. It will save all of us some worries:) After the caste finding in the next census, we should reorg India into smaller fiefdoms led by Dirty Devegowda types. BTW after the BBMP elections, is Dirty still alive or what?

  57. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    DB–

    You are a vigilant DG watcher. After his public characterisation of many BJP chumps as persons of illegitimate origins–a slur term even Churumuri’s caption creators have adopted–he disappeared from public view for a while probabbly because he had been hospitalised. Then he picked Bengaluru’s mayor, vice-mayor, in advance. Rehabilitated a criminal by getting him elected to City Council from a ward supposedly overflowing with overeducated people, made one last stab at getting his second son a ministry at the federal level. (Rumor has it that a Cabinet spot in Delhi costs eighty crores and the Somanahalli wigwearer had paid it in advance.) Took a whole bunch of kulabaandhavaru on a ride to New Delhi to protest Kheni’s success in becoming the owner of the most expensive real estate between Ring Road in Bengaluru and Srirangapatna. I think a Kannadaprabha editorial rightly wondered why there were no rythapi jana from Utthara Kannada region on Gowda’s ragtag contingent and why all his political kitapati occurs only before the monsoons. Incidentally, don’t you detest our spineless media calling him the JD supremo, paramoccha nayaka etcetera? I don’t think there is any humorous intent in it. They have always run scared of him.

    I bet the man’s descent into senility is beginning to cause him to be kept under close medicated watch by his thuggish offspring, who themselves may end up like Bhasmasuras trying to tie up the even more thuggish Reddy conclave of Bellari in unending criminal investigations with the blessings of a Ramlal like Congress clown governor who has taken to micromanaging the state. In any case, I find myself wondering why the sarvanthryami Devegowda keeps proclaiming he will reveal everything about everybody within two days and he has the documents that will put all his political enemies in jail for eternity.

    What do we need to do to bring back the angelic music of Dr. Ramesu and the new paraku man named Manjunath who has anthropomorposized the dotard as the Father of Karnataka to reaasure us in this cyber thamasha?

  58. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Tigers Whiskers The Ultimate,

    Thank you. I think now I have all the updates on Dirty and his entourage. Sure Dirty will reveal everything one day but let’s wait. What’s the hurry any way. yes it bothers me when our media calls Dirty’s ex CM son as Junior-Bro! WTF is that! Probably to rhyme with the elder son’s name, our journos got creative? I miss Dhanthagna Rameshappa. I hope he is drilling away some where while immersed in the past great deeds of Dirty and Sons…Yes there are Manjunath types who have kind of taken a cyber-pater affection to Dirty and are willing to nix their own legit paters. Ram lal the governor is bound to play the midfield because of his earlier career and fame as a fixer of long standing problems such as the Bofors case. May be Ram Lal is useful in many ways to the Signora. Who knows and who can tell!

    Yes I have heard rumors that 80 crores was the going rate for these ministerial posts but how can a minister of external affairs make any money other than raking up some mileage on Air India?:) Looks like some faulty thinking behind this important portfolio by our Somnalli Haida don’t you think? But I am kind of pleased that he did rather well on the Canada visa issue but other ‘external affairs’ seem to be out of his grasp and reach, perhaps? Twittoor was kind of getting articulate with the teenage crowd but the old Indian disease of greed got him in the end. At least he seems to have zeroed in on a fine looking lady and willing to pay any price to secure her affections.

    Coming to Maoists…it is kind of amazing to see secular stalwarts such as Ken-Seat Karnad, URA, Dirty and others have quietly gone deaf and mute on the heroic deeds of the Maoists in India. Has anybody bothered to ask these types about this issue?

  59. Leo Saldanha Says:

    Dear All,

    Thank you for those who think that had the authorities and Courts respected our petitions, the implications of this air crash would have been vastly different. And for other friends who think we are “ambulance chasers”, all I can say is that we have never done such a thing before, and don’t even understand how anyone could make money out of misery! ESG is committed to bring to book those who systematically failed us. The Mangalore airport is only a representation of how callous people in power are on critical and big decisions. We have similarly exposed the problems of the Bangalore Metro project, with its four right angle track alignments and consequent high wear and tear and increase of risk.

    This is what we do as researchers. We are open to criticism – and healthier the better.

    One more thing: I am not a lawyer, but I do practice law (as party in person arguing ESG’s PILs).

    Regards

    Leo

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