The tragic story of the Air India Express 737 flying from Dubai to Kozhikode yesterday, is one that is still unfolding. Landing in rainy weather, the aircraft overshot the runway and fell 35 feet into a gorge, breaking the fuselage in two. Rescue operations are still underway and the number of injuries and fatalities is yet to be determined.
Repatriation flight from Dubai
The flight involved in the crash was an Air India Express flight, IX 1344, flying from Dubai to Kozhikode International Airport. This flight was one of the Vande Bharat Mission repatriation flights undertaken by Air India Express, bring home stranded Indians from the UAE.
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The aircraft in question was a 13.7-year-old Boeing 737-800 delivered to Air India Express, with registration VT-AXH according to Planespotters.net. AI Express is the low-cost subsidiary of flag carrier Air India and operates domestic and medium-haul international routes.
Information about the crash is still being unearthed and could change at short notice. According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the plane had a total of 190 passengers and crew during the crash, which includes 10 infants, two pilots, and four cabin crew.
The crash occurred at 19:41 local time when the aircraft overshot the runway during its landing into Kozhikode. The plane had also previously tried to land but decided to go-around instead, trying one more time. Upon overshooting the runway, the plane fell 35 feet into the valley at the end of the strip.
The airport has a tabletop runway, which means the ends have steep gorges. This means pilots must follow a precise approach while landing to ensure that the plane does not skid off the runway and into the gorge. Sadly, it seems this is what happened during the Air India Express flight.
Emergency services reached the scene within minutes to begin search and rescue operations for those onboard. Luckily, the aircraft did not catch fire during the crash, as this would have resulted in a more severe situation for those onboard.
As mentioned, rescue operations are still going on and final figures are yet to determined. At the time of writing, there are 20 confirmed fatalities, with a further 20 more in a serious condition and over 100 hospitalized, according to the Hindustan Times.
An official investigation is underway by India’s aviation regulator, DGCA, into the crash. The Chief of the DGCA, Arun Kumar, said early on:
“It [the flight] made an over-speeding landing, overshot the runway, and fell into a valley. The aircraft has broken into two parts but it is being reported that it has not caught fire, which increases chances of rescue.”
The current crash has also been compared to another fatal Air India Express crash in Mangalore in 2010. That crash also saw the aircraft overshoot the tabletop runway and crash into a gorge, resulting in fires and the death of 158 people. The lack of a fire in this crash has many hoping that most will survive this, and important lessons will be learned.
The Simple Flying team would like to express its condolences to all those affected by the crash. Emergency contact information for those affected can be found here.