Mamta Todi
Mamta Todi was last working as an asst news editor with TOI. She has over 10 yrs of work experience in journalism, working across various beats and top publications
Stories by Mamta Todi
 06 Aug, 2020

Air India Express flight under Vande Bharat Mission crashes in Kozhikode, 17 confirmed dead

Kozhikode, Kerala: An Air India Express flight from Dubai to Kozhikode crashed on Friday evening after the aircraft skidded off the tabletop runway at the Calicut International Airport. Air India Express confirmed the accident and issued a statement confirming, “174 passengers, including 10 infants and six crew members (including two pilots) were onboard the Dubai-Kozhikode Air India flight (IX-1344).”Confirmed news from sources reveal that the Captain of the flight Cmdr Deepak Vasant Sathe and First Officer Akhilesh Kumar and 15 passengers died in the accident.“The incident took place at 7.45pm,” confirmed The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in a statement. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has ordered an enquiry into the incident. According to reports and pictures from the accident site, the aircraft split into two after it overshot the runway. However, there was no confirmation of the aircraft catching fire.Other crew members on board included Shilpa Katare, Akshay Pal Singh, Lalit Kumar and Abhik Biswas – all of them Indian nationals.Kerala minister A.C Moideen has been leading the rescue efforts at the Calicut International Airport. “Police and Fire Force personnel have been deployed at the crash site of the Air india Express AXB1344, B737 Dubai (@DXB)to Calicut (CCJ),” said Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Rescue operations are underway and further reports are awaited. Former Minister of State for Tourism KJ Alphons who hails from Kerala has also confirmed the accident in a tweet.Meanwhile, according to the Kerala Chief Minister’s office, Mr Vijayan spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over phone and apprised the PM of the arrangements made for rescue and medical support. “The Prime Minister has promised the assistance of the Union Government,” added the CMO’s statement.The Calicut AirportThe Calicut International Airport, also known as Karipur Airport, is an international airport serving the cities of Kozhikkode and Malappuram in Kerala. The airport has a runway that is 2,700 m long but is the shortest of the four airports in Kerala.While the airport has been operational since 1988, it got the tag of an international airport in 2006. One of the busiest airports in India, the Calicut Airport is a hub of Air India Express that operates many Haj and other international flights from here. A key landing point for those travelling to North Kerala from UAE and other Gulf countries, Calicut Airport lost its sheen when the Kannur International Airport was readied in 2018. Calicut Airport is one of only three tabletop runways in the country, built on a hilly terrain and can be challenging to pilots.The tabletop runway angle: The Calicut airport has a tabletop runway named Runway 10 that is located on the top of a plateau or hill with one or both ends adjacent to a steep gorge. Such a runway mandates very precise landing and approach by the pilot.According to former head of operations of Alliance Air and IndiGo Capt Shakti Lumba, pilots face difficulties during the landing or taking off from table-top runways. “There are two issues: runway environment and approach environment. For the first case, is the length of runway long enough for normal operations and is there enough overrun area in case of a misjudged landing/aborted take-off, as stipulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). If these two are met, then for take-off, tabletop runways pose no risk. However, for approach, pilots can be subjected to misleading illusions while landing with perceived height above ground, leading to misjudging the approach profile during visual landings,” Capt Lumba had told News Karnataka.Rescue efforts on: Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Kerala has tweeted the helpline numbers to assist the passengers who were onboard the Air Indian Express AXB1344. The helpline numbers are following: Airport Control Room – 0483 2719493Malappuram Collectorate – 0483 2736320Kozhikode Collectorate – 0495 2376901Air India Express has also established a helpline number in Sharjah at 00971 6 5970303. People can call them as well for updates.UAE Consul General of India has also set up a helpline at numbers 056 546 3903, 0543090572, 0543090572, 0543090575.

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Air India Express flight under Vande Bharat Mission crashes in Kozhikode, 17 confirmed dead

 26 Sep, 2019

Bid to replace India-made equipment at airports with imported ones

Delhi: Drishti, an equipment developed in India that helps pilots in landing and take-off at city airports, is reportedly being scrapped by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) to pave the way for an imported and costlier weather monitoring system. Drishti is a visual range equipment installed at 21 airports across the country and has won more than 10 national awards for its performance even in the worst of conditions. However, the IMD is now contemplating the idea of replacing it with imported systems, which cost thrice as much. Presently, out of the 101 Drishti systems operational in the country, 47 are installed at 21 international airports and 54 at 18 Indian Air Force airstrips. In 2014, the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) signed an agreement with the IMD for providing the visibility measuring system. Developed for Rs18 lakh, Drishti can provide visibility at a distance less than 20 metres and more than 2,000 metres, informed a senior IMD official on the condition of anonymity.After Drishti gained footage in the country, proposals were floated to take the systems to airports abroad. However, the officials at the IMD have taken a U-turn and are keen to bring a matching visual aid developed by Vaisala from Finland at an estimated cost of Rs70 lakh. A committee headed by former Director General (DG) Dr Ajit Tyagi has already been put in place for purchases worth Rs100 crore. Dr Tyagi heads the request for proposal committee that is planning to import the system. Below parDr Tyagi told 101Reporters that while Drishti is a good system, upgradation has to take place as the systems that are in place at Indian airports are not on par with others in the world. He added that the committee is proposing to go systematically across airports to manage the growing volume of traffic. “We falter in becoming world-class if we are not approaching a commercial entity to get these systems. Our scientists don’t move beyond a certain level in developing indigenous systems. We are looking at procuring new systems over the next two to three years,” he added.The PMO had issued a notice to all government offices in January 2019, stating that if there is an indigenous product in India, no specification should be put up seeking a matching a requirement with imported system.A senior official of the New Delhi airport, on the condition of anonymity, stated that the tenders are planned to be floated in a way that only foreign companies can win the bid. The official also stated that the officials are also importing a ‘forward scatter meter’ and claimed that it won’t work in Indian conditions.According to a senior ministry official, 60 runway visual range systems (equivalent to Drishti) worth Rs1 crore each, 76 current weather instruments for Rs20-22 lakh each, 60 forward scatter meters for dense fog and snow for Rs20-22 lakh each and 17 wind profilers at Rs30-35 lakh each are being procured, for which proposals have been floated by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.No costA senior Jet Airways operations official said Drishti has been working for the last eight years with nearly no maintenance and zero expenditure on repairs. He highlighted that the system measures all weather parameters like wind speed, wind direction, temperature, air pressure, humidity, dew point, visibility required for air operations with aid of an weather-monitoring system developed by NAL. “The number of flights being cancelled due to bad weather or low visibility has come down drastically even at our busiest airports,” he added.As per a feedback letter in 2015 by Prabhakara Rao, CEO of the GMR group, “Two years ago, we installed Drishti on our main runway to replace the old Flamingo systems. Till date, there have been no failures of these systems under the most trying circumstances of low visibility conditions. It is a true Make-in-India product.”Dr KJ Ramesh, former DG of IMD, highlighted that Drishti is an excellent product for runway visibility measurement. A similar system need not be imported at all, he opined. He pointed out that there is no policy decision to replace Drishti so far while plans are on to procure other observation systems that help safer take-off and landings. He added that importing an integrated system is not feasible as the systems have to be integrated locally once they are brought through a local IT solutions provider.Dr Sekhar Mandey, DG of CSIR, told 101Reporters, “Drishti is a globally benchmarked and extremely good product. I am not aware of any plans to scrap it.”

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Bid to replace India-made equipment at airports with imported ones

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