Why An Airbus A320neo Landed On An Unfinished Runway In Male

You may remember that a year ago an Air India Airbus A320neo landed on an unfinished runway in Male. Well, now the Civil Aviation Authority of the Maldives has issued its final report on the incident.

Air India, Male, Incomplete Runway
An Air India Airbus A320neo (not pictured) landed on an incomplete runway last year. Photo: Steven Byles via Flickr

On the 7th of September 2018, a couple of Air India pilots accidentally landed on the new runway at Male. They had mistaken it for the smaller runway 18. The mishap was reported as a serious incident to both the CAA of India and the Maldives. Thankfully, nobody was injured in the occurrence, although the aircraft was damaged.

What happened?

Air India flight 263 was supposed to take 136 passengers and 7 crew from Thiruvananthapuram in India to Male in the Maldives on the 7th of September 2018. However, at around 15:30 local time the aircraft landed on an adjacent runway which was still under construction. The new runway is parallel to the existing runway, and measures 10,500ft long.

The tires and brakes sustained a serious amount of damage, meaning the aircraft needed to be repaired before it left Male. Additionally, images of the incident posted on Twitter at the time appeared to show a large tarpaulin tangled in the aircraft’s left main landing gear. The aircraft was grounded for four days while repairs took place. It then eventually left Male on the 11th of September 2018.

Air India, Male, Incomplete Runway
The aircraft landed on an incomplete runway. Source: FlightRadar24.com

CAA report

On Wednesday the Civil Aviation Authority of the Maldives released its final report on the incident. The Aviation Herald reported on the update. It appears as though both pilots couldn’t miss the new runway as it stood out like a sore thumb. However, they failed to notice the runway in use. The pilot in command was not aware of a NOTAM mentioning the runway under construction.

The report goes on to suggest that the markings on the runway were not consistent with the required standards. It states: Runway markings on the runway under constructions were painted but were not obliterated in accordance with Annex 14 and Air Safety Circular ASC 139-5″

Air India, Male, Incomplete Runway
Closed runways should have large yellow Xs painted over their numbers. Photo: US Government

Ultimately, it appears as though the underlying cause of the incident was the failure of the crew to recognize that they were landing on the unfinished runway. However, a number of contributing factors led to this error.

Had the new runway been notated on the charts, the pilots may have been proactively looking for it. If the runway markings had been clearer, the pilots may have realized that they should not be landing on this specific runway.

Thankfully nobody was injured in the incident, and the lessons learned should help avoid a similar mistake in the future.

Could the incident have been avoided? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.