Pilot’s attempt to land despite captain’s objection led to Flydubai crash?

By Jacob K Philip

It could be an attempt by the first-officer to land at Rostov-on-Don itself  despite the objection of the captain that led to the crash of Flydubai flight981 at the airport  on 19th morning, this month. The transcription of the last minute of the two-hour long cockpit voice recorder points to this possibility alone.
Though Rossiya-1, a Russian  television channel, that leaked the transcription, has suggested that the crash was caused by an inadvertent activation of the elevator while the aircraft was climbing, an analysis of the transcribed voices  indicates something far more grave and intriguing.

This was how the Channel had interpreted the CVR data:

“The transcript suggests that the pilot lost control of the plane immediately after switching off the autopilot.  The pilot accidentally switched on a stabilising fin at the tail as he tried to pull the plane back to a horizontal position. With this fin activated, the plane practically does not react to the pilot’s control panel. And thus the nose dive and crash.

And here is another paragraph from a news report based on this interpretation:

“On the second landing attempt, the crew decided to pull up and try again, but 40 seconds after beginning the ascent, one of the pilots switched off the autopilot, possibly in response to sudden turbulence, the report said. Seconds after the autopilot was turned off, the plane plunged to the ground”.

The problem with these analyses was that none of them had  looked closely at the dialogues between the pilots. Instead, they went on assuming a lot of things regarding the auto pilot and the movements of flight control surfaces, without the backing of the data from the Flight Data Recorder, which was still being analysed.  The accidental activation of the elevator or a runaway  elevator were mere assumptions without the backing of any proof.

These were the sequence of events  that unfolded at  Rostov-on-Don that fateful morning:

Captain Aristos Sokratous (38) and first officer Alejandro Cruz Alava (37)  were not being able to land the Boeing-737-800 in harsh weather conditions.  They had tried to land once but had to abort it because of  poor visibility. And then began the extraordinary hovering  that lasted well beyond two hours  over Rostov-on-Don. Even as at least two other flights had opted for alternate airports (within 250 km), to the amazement of the ATC, Flight 981 opted to stay put.   After  2 hours, they decided to give it another try. But had to abort the landing again and they initiated a go-around.   But within one minute, the aircraft fell almost like a stone and crashed, killing all aboard. The transcription of the CVR has the sounds in the cockpit during that last, tragic one-minute.

The timeline and the voices:

  • Before 01:40:40GMT (The transcription aired by the channel does not specify the exact time):  ‘Going around’,  -‘Climbing to 50’, -‘Climbing to 50’
  • 01:40:40GMT: “Do not worry, do not worry, do not worry!”
  • 01:40:45GMT: “Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this!”
  • 01:40:50GMT : ‘Pull! Pull! Pull!
  • 01:40:54GMT ‘Aaaaaa’ (inhuman cries)

“Do not worry, do not worry, do not worry!”

At 01:40:40 one of the pilots says, “Do not worry, do not worry, do not worry!” (Before this, they already had aborted the landing and initiated a go around and had started climbing to 5000 ft). (Most probably that was Captain Sokratous. Because the chances for a first officer to say this to his commander are so remote).

The obvious implications of the words “Do not worry”, repeated thrice are this:

  1. One of the pilots was worried about something.
  2. The cause of the worry was already known to the other one, who seems to console, reassure.
  3. The re-assuring pilot was not sure if the other one would cease to worry- that was why the repetition.

What was the worry?

The answer could be there in the manoeuvre they just had initiated: Go around.

He must have been worried about doing a ‘go around’ again.  The next voice (heard 5 seconds after) proves this assumption was correct:

“Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this!” 

What it he was doing, for the captain to yell like this?  The answer is here:  It was at this point that the plane started its fatal dive.

So the pilot, who was worried about yet another go-around, initiated the descent on his own, against the ‘loud and clear’ instruction of the Captain.

Pull Up, Pull Up

This call to pull the aircraft up comes five seconds after.  While the aircraft was falling at disastrous speed, the voice heard yelling Pull Up, Pull Up very well could have been uttered by the Commander of the plane. And it can also be the automated ground -proximity warning.  Whatever it was, one fact is clear:  The pulling up was never done.

Inhuman cries

The nerve-chilling cries heard four seconds later imply another important thing.

It was not an attempt to crash the aircraft deliberately (as in the German wings crash case). That is, if the cry was from both the pilots.

The aircraft hit the ground within seconds, exploded, killing all aboard.

More about the “Dont Worry”

It could be argued that the pilot was not worried about the “go around”, but about some blunder he could have  committed in manoeuvring the plane, like an inadvertent pulling of a lever, activation of a switch, just as suggested by Rossiya-1.  If so, the Captian would then have been looking for a solution, a correction. He could have been trying to correct the action and at the same time only telling his colleague that, “it was okay, I will correct it, don’t worry”

What the first officer could’ve been doing while his captain been busy correcting an error he had committed? By all probability, he would have been watching it all, with guilt written all over his face. And the last thing he would do at that juncture would be touching the console again.

But what happens 5 seconds later? The Captain yells this :

 “Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this!”

The first pilot had  just done something that should never have been done!  Again?!

That is unbelievable.

There is only one explanation:  His initial worry was never about some blunder he had committed.

So why he acted against all the norms of subordination and CRM? What was the urgency?

Or again, what was his worry?

The answer will be in the CVR itself- that is, in the 119 minutes prior to the last one minute. Though it never was leaked to any media, that 119 minutes must be full of the words exchanged between the two pilots. While just hovering over an airport for two hours, looking for an oppotunity to land, no colleagues can remain silent. The answers will be there in the chat between the two while flying in numerous loops over  Rostov-on-Don.

The hovering for a couple of hours

The perplexing hovering for two hours when there were ample opportunities to fly to another and land there, may be explained, by the extra-ordinary attempt made by the pilot to land despite the shocked intervention of the captain.

It could have been because of the persuasion of the first officer that the captain decided to remain there.   He wanted to land at the airport that day. That exactly could be why  he appeared worried when the second attempt to land was aborted and the captain imitated a climb to 5000 ft.  He might’ve feared that they would be going to another airport soon.  And that explains his taking over the control.

But why?

Why he was worried about not being able to land at that airport on that fateful morning of March 19?

That obviously is the most crucial question.

(Jacob K Philip, a Doha based aviation analyst, is the honorary editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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The untold story of Jet Airways Flight 9W555: How an airline and its pilot nearly crashed a passenger plane with 150 people onboard

By Jacob K Philip

An incident that was hardly noticed by the national media, though it was one of the gravest of the safety incidents ever occurred at any of the Indian airports, is bound to land Jet Airways, the operator airline, in deep trouble in the coming days.
The DGCA is viewing the incident very seriously and by all indications, both airline and the pilot who was hailed by the local newspapers and the social media as a hero who miraculously saved the lives of 142  odd passengers and eight crew, are to face the music.
It was at Kochi airport, Kerala, a southern state of India, that the chain of events that culminated in the near-disaster, started on the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 18, 2015.
When Jet Airways flight 9W 555, a Boeing 737-800, arrived from Doha, the Capital of Qatar, over Kochi at 5.45 in the morning, there were not enough visibility for the aircraft to land because of the haze that followed a heavy rain during the previous night. After holding over Kochi for a almost half an hour, the pilot decided to divert to Trivandrum. When it reached Trivandrum, visibility at Trivandrum also was less than what required for a visual landing. (ILS was not available because of a calibration issue).
The captain of the aircraft informed the Air Traffic Control (ATC) that the fuel levels were running low and he should be permitted to attempt landings even though the visibility was insufficient. The pilot tried to land from the ’14’ end of the runway thrice. By the time fuel level dropped to alarming levels according to the pilot and he made a final attempt at the other end of the runway, almost blindly. In between, he made a May Day call also.
A full emergency was declared (even before the May Day call) at the airport and all the steps were taken as per the SOP. ( Getting ambulances ready, informing city fire services also and the alerting the hospitals in the pre-made panel etc.).
The pilot however could manage to land the aircraft. The landing turned out to be without any hitch.
The whole incident would never have attracted not much of an attention, being one of the numerous diversion incidents during the inclement weather in Kerala airports, but for the grave issue of shortage of fuel involved and for the desperate frantic way the pilot behaved , making even a May Day call.
And it indeed was one of the most serious safety occurrences that could happen at any airport. And the government and the regulation authorities should be taking immediate actions, treating the incident at par with an actual air crash.
Here is why:

The core of the incident is a passenger aircraft using up almost all the fuel in-flight. There could be only three reasons for such a rarest of rare occurrence:

  1. The fuel policy of the airline that is not in line with international safety standards
  2.  Erroneous implementation of the fuel policy (If the policy was perfect)
  3. Wrong judgement and short-sighted en-route planning and erroneous/belated decision making of the pilot.

There are only remote chances for 1 to be true, because the SOPs simply will always be correct, everywhere, for all organizations.

So we can pass on to 2:
Though the fuel planning method vary across airlines, the fuel requirement for Boeing 737-800 aircraft is generally calculated as the sum of the following:

  1. Fuel to reach the destination
  2. Fuel to reach an alternate airport from the destination
  3. Fuel to fly for 45 minutes at cruising altitude from the alternate airport
  4. Fuel for planned hold
  5. Fuel to taxi
  6. 5% contingency.

So for B737-800s that fly from Doha to Kochi covering 1677 nm ( 3106 km), each of these items will work out like this:

  1. Fuel to reach the destination (kochi) = 10167 kgm (Allowing an allownace for a headwind of 50kts).
  2. Fuel to reach Trivandrum, the alternate airport, 191 km(103nm) away from kochi – 1497 kgm
  3. Fuel to fly for 45 minutes at cruising altitude from Trivandrum, the alternate airport: 2701 kgm
  4. Fuel for holding for 30 minutes: 1800 kgm
  5. Taxi fuel: 200kgm

The total of 1 to 5 is 16365 kgm

So 5% for contingency is 818.25 kgm

Therefore, the all-up total fuel required is 17183 kgm or 21478 litres

And the total fuel capacity of the aircraft is 20894 kgm (26118 litres).

Even if the aircraft had only 17183 kgm and not the maximum capacity of 20894 kgm, the 9W555 would have had 7016 kgm of fuel left when it reached Kochi.
Imagine it had spent an entire 30 minutes of holding time at Kochi. So the remaining fuel when it left for Trivandrum was 5216 kgm.
On reaching Trivandrum the fuel level would have become 5216-1497 kgm = 3719 kgm.
And how much time it spent at Trivandrum to do the three missed approaches and go-arounds? On 7.03 am, it had touched down. It reached Kochi by 5.50 AM. If it had spent 30 minutes at Kochi and it left it must have left Kochi by 6.20 AM. So, within 43 minutes, it reached Trivandrum, missed three approaches and did the final landing. Deducting the time taken by these exercises, the flying time turns out to be 15 minutes- that is to reach over Trivandrum.

So when the Captain decided to land blindly on a runway he could not see even from a height of 1500m, endangering the lives of all souls on the plane, there were 1379 kgm or 1723 litrs of fuel in the wing tanks. Enough for him to stay up for 28 minutes.
(But had the aircraft been filled up to maximum quantity, that is 20894 kgm, the quantum of the remaining fuel would have been as much as 3711 kgm).

Then why he went for the deadly gamble?

The reason should be one of the three:

  1. The pilot read the remaining fuel quantity erroneously
  2. The pilot did understand the figure correctly, but failed to calculate correctly the reaming time he could be airborne with that much fuel
  3. The fuel quantity indeed was too low. Much lower than the 1723 kgm. May be a couple of hundreds only.

If the reason was 1 or 2, the pilot is guilty of endangering the lives of a plane full of people including himself and the crew.

And if the reason was three, the pilot again is the one responsible- theoretically, at least. It is the duty of the pilot, and pilot alone, to ensure that he had enough fuel in his plane to reach the destination safely.
But it remains just a theory, for most of the private airlines in India, says an Air India commander based at Chennai who flies Gulf routes regularly.

“Being a public sector airlines and because of the presence of an employee’s union, the commanders, who are the real authority when it comes to the safety of the aircraft they fly, still do assert in Air India. But these young boys in the private airlines won’t dare..” says the Captain with over 15 years of flying experience.
And it is not budget airlines alone try to cut cost at all fronts, even if that is by comprising safety.
But even if the fuel planning policy of the airline was a culprit, the Captain of flight 9W555 has still more to answer.

1. The assessment of  the significance of an early warning received

Just five minutes after it left Kochi, the Trivandrum Area Control had passed on a crucial piece of information to Flight 9W555. They said the the visibility at Trivandrum, which was 3000 m when the aircraft started its flight to the airport, had suddenly dropped to 1500 m.   But the Captain was not to turn back.
He expressed his confidence that he can land on ‘converted minima’. (The minimum practical visibility required to land an aircraft even when the stipulated visibility is not available. The visual range is calculated by converting the meteorological visibility).
He could have made the landing as per this calculation but for just one crucial thing he overlooked. That was clouds. If clouds are there at low altitudes, all the calculations would turn upside down.
And that exactly was what happened a few minutes after at Trivandrum.

2. Briefing the ATC of the available fuel.

On way to Trivandrum from Kochi, the pilot had informed the Trivandrum ATC  that he had enough fuel  to fly for one more hour.  It was when the aircraft was around 12 minutes away from Trivandrum that this information about the fuel quantity was given to the ATC as an answer to a routine query.

So as per his own estimation, he had got only 48 minutes of fuel left when reached above Trivandrum airport. One missed approach will cost 7 minutes, approximately. So the time for three approaches is 21 minutes.

But there was a problem. The fuel consumption for B737-800 aircraft at approach levels (around 3000ft) is almost 1.5 times of the consumption in cruising levels. So at the end of three approaches he would only have fuel for for 18 minutes left instead of 27 minutes. Or roughly 1092 kgm or 1365 litters of fuel.
So when he decided at last to land blindly on Runway 32 after saying a “Good Bye” to the ATC, he actually had got fuel for 18 minutes left, if what he said to Trivandrum ATC before indeed was correct.
Why he went for the do-or-die landing where chances of crash were much so high, with 1365 litters of inflammable fuel in his wings? Perplexing, indeed.

3. The selection of the runway

At Trivandrum, the ILS is installed at the North-West or 32 end of the runway. The other end, the south-east one, is denoted by the shortened bearing, 14.
On the fateful morning, the ILS was not operative as said earlier. So we may think it was natural for the pilot to align to land from 14 end.
But it was not so. At Trivandrum, only wide body aircraft choose runway 14 these days because the width to turn from the other end is less when land on 32 end. For a narrow body aircraft like Boring 737-800, it never was a problem. The obvious choice was 32.
The reasons were two:

  1. When landing from 32 end, the available runway length would be more. It was because, the threshold, the first point on runway for the aircraft to touch on landing, is only 135m from the end for 32, But for 14, it is 406 m away from the runway end. When attempting to land on a runway in low visibility and in an urgency, no pilot would opt for a short runway.
  2. When trying to land on a runway with no ILS, the main navigational equipment the pilot got is his eyes. He has to see the runway and surroundings clearly. But when an aircraft approaches from 14 end, the morning sunlight would be falling right on the pilot’s face, effectively blinding him.

But even as the perplexed ATC people were watching, he tried not just once, but three times to land from that very side- wasting precious time and fuel.

When trying to land on the same end of the runway after an approach was missed, the aircraft will have to do a ‘go around’ to align again to that end again. That means more flying and alas, more loss of fuel.

And in the end, from where he could make the landing?

From the 32 end, of course !

4. The timing of the May Day call

When did the captain actually make the May Day call that simply transformed the very character of the whole incident?
Not before the last attempt, as one would expect.
The call had already been made after the second attempt to land. And at that time, the pilot was having enough fuel to stay in the skies comfortably for 23 more minutes.
After the May Day call he tried another attempt at the same, short, runway 14.  And only after spending fuel for another 7 minutes that he could realize that runway 32 was the better choice.

The Good Bye to the ATC too to be mentioned here. It is highly unusual to end the communication with the ATC with a Good Bye. Usually it is something like “Good Day”. And the situation in which the Good Bye was uttered never lost on the ATC people.

Jet Airways, the airline and its selection of alternate airports

It is only commonsense that, chances are much high for same climatic conditions to prevail at Trivandrum and at Kochi within a span of an hour or less. If the visibility at Kochi is less, that at Trivandrum too would be less, being located only a few hundred kms away on the same western cost of Kerala. So it is sensible to NOT to set Trivandrum as an alternate airport, if the safety of passengers is indeed the main criteria.
That is why for Air India, the alternate airport is either Bangalore or Chennai and for Air Arabia, it is Coimbatore.

But then why it is Trivandrum for Jet Airways?

The answer is obvious. Private airlines are more eager to reduce the flying expenditure by all means and they think they can get away with it. It is only to fulfill a safety requirement that they fix an alternate airport in the first place. And when being compelled to do so, they select the nearest airport. Nearest airport means less flying time and less fuel.

Some other facts

What actually was the available visibility at Trivandrum when 9W555 did the reckless landing?
It was 1500 m.
And what was the actual distance required?
For runway 32, it was 2400m and for runway 14 it was 2100 m.  That was the theory.  But for all practical purposes, a visibility of 1500 m is pretty comfortable to land, says an Air India pilot- that is, if the sky is clear. The problem that morning at Trivandrum was that, in addition to the low visibility, there were clouds hanging around at an elevation 450 m or so. So when coming down to land from 900 m, that indeed would have hidden the runway from the pilot.

The May Day call
Unlike many tend to think, the utterance of a May Day call (it was SOS earlier days- Save Our Souls) by an aircraft on the final approaches at an airport is actually depriving the pilot of all the assistance from the ATC. Once the words are out, the ATC will cease all communications with him and he will be on his own then onward. That is to not to disturb the pilot when he frantically would be trying to manage the landing. He then has full freedom to resort to any action he thinks that would save the flight.  No one will interrupt him. And on Tuesday, the ATC at Trivandrum did exactly follow this dictum. Even when the aircraft’s nose pointed right towards the tower for a while during the final moments before the landing, they never tried to yell at the pilot, even as they really got terrified. With the May Day call, the preparations to handle the emergency did not escalate, though, at the airport during this  period. It was because the airport had declared a full emergency even before the May Day call was made and the SOP for that was already being followed. So there were nothing more to be done on the ground, except staying alert, expecting a crash any moment.

(Jacob K Philip, a Doha based aviation analyst, is the honorary editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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Kozhikode airport clash: Investigation in gross violation of rules

By Jacob K Philip

One week after Kozhikode airport, Kerala, has witnessed a war like confrontation between the CISF and the airport staff, the extremely alarming incident is now being investigated in total violation of the laws of the country.

As per Indian Aircraft Act, it was the union civil aviation ministry, and not the state government to initiate actions.
And it never was the responsibility of the local police to do the investigation, collect evidence and make arrests.

The authorities in fact had no options but to go by ‘the suppression of unlawful acts against safety of civil aviation act ‘ (which forms a part of Indian Aircraft Act) and to entrust the whole investigation with an officer deputed specifically for the purpose by the Civil Aviation Ministry.

– Because what happened at Kozhikode airport between 10.30 pm and 5.30 am on the fateful night clearly were the gravest of unlawful acts against safety of civil aviation that could ever have happened at any airport in the country.
See section 3A & 4 of the Act:

3A. Offence at airport
(1) Whoever, at any airport unlawfully and intentionally, using any device, substance or weapon,
(a) Commits an act of violence which is likely to cause grievous hurt or death of any person; or
(b) Destroys or seriously damages any aircraft or facility at an airport or disrupts any service at the airport, endangering or threatening to endanger safety at that airport, shall be punished with imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

4 . Destruction of, or damage to, air navigation facilities
(1) Whoever unlawfully and intentionally destroys or damages air navigation facilities or interferes with their operation in such a manner as is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft in flight shall be punished with imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

And here is how each of these unlawful acts were blatantly committed by the very agency that was entrusted with preventing the same:

3A. 1 (a): Acts of violence:

In addition to the killing of a CISF man in accidental firing, the acts of violence can be summarized like this- assaulting the airport staff, aiming loaded guns at them and chasing them across the airport.

3A. 1 (b)
Destroying facilities of airport:

Two crash fire tenders were vandalized, the doors of many rooms of the technical block were damaged, the monitor of INDRA automation system worth millions of Rupees was pulverized… the list is pretty long.

Disrupts any service at the airport:

It was not just a disruption but total stoppage of services. All the activities at the airport had come to a standstill during 10.30 PM to 5.30 in the morning.

Endangering or threatening to endanger safety at the airport:

By chasing down the people entrusted with the safe functioning of the airport and air traffic control with loaded guns and other weapons, the whole bunch of the CISF men couldn’t have managed to do this violation better. They not only made the ATC tower deserted for full 20 minutes by making the air traffic controllers flee for their lives, but they themselves had abandoned their designated posts, in the quest for revenge!

4(1)Damaging air navigation facilities:

After a chase of AAI staff in the operational area that reminded of the scenes of thriller movies, a group of CISF men had destroyed as many as 22 lights on two sides of the runway. And runway lights are crucial navigation al equipment, not to mention the monitor of INDRA automation system.

Interferes with their (air navigation system’s ) operation:

By barging into the ATC tower, which itself was a serious offence, the CISF chased away the air traffic controllers from their assigned posts(The ATC officer were hiding behind furniture in a locked store room while the Jawans searched for them with loaded guns). It was not just interference with the operation of air navigation system – It was making the whole system dead.

Now that it is established beyond a shadow of doubt that each and every clause regarding the airport /aviation safety in the act were violated, the next step is investigation and nabbing the culprits.
Now read section 5A:

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, for the purposes of this Act, the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, confer on any officer of the Central Government, powers of arrest, investigation and prosecution exercisable by a police officer under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
(2) All officers of police and all officers of Government are hereby required and empowered to assist the officer of the Central Government referred to in sub-section (1), in the execution of the provisions of this Act.

So, contrary to what happened and still happening at Kozhikode, the local police had no right to investigate the case or to arrest the suspects. They actually had only one role to play: assisting the officer designated by the central government in conducting the investigation and making arrests.

Now read how the trial is to be conducted:

Section 5B: Designated Courts:
(1) For the purpose of providing for speedy trial, the State Government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify a Court of Session to be a Designated Court for such area or areas as may be specified in the notification.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, a Designated Court shall, as far as practicable,hold the trial on a day-to-day basis.

Section 5C. Offences triable by Designated Courts —

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973,
(a) all offences under this Act shall be triable only by the Designated Court specified under sub-section (1) of section 5B.
(2) When trying an offence under this Act, the Designated Court may also try an offence other than an offence under this Act, with which the accused may, under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, be charged at the same trial.

That means, not only the acts of violation of aviation safety rules, but all other crimes committed too during that night should be investigated only by an officer appointed by the Central Government and all the accused should be tried by the special court set-up or the purpose alone.

The investigations and arrests being done by the local police is not only in gross violations of the aircraft act, they are in utterly wrong direction too.

Because the horrific things happened at Kozhikode airport on June 10 were not a simple case of law & order; not an issue of damaging public property; not even a case of culpable homicide – but something much more serious and which is going to have far reaching consequences as far as the civil aviation scenario and internal security of the country is concerned.

(Jacob K Philip, a Doha based aviation analyst, is the honorary editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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MH 370: Crash confirmed, the Answers to ‘How’ and ‘Why’ Still Hidden in the First Hours

Did the pilots try to land at three airports, one after another?

By Jacob K Philip

With the announcement made by Najiv Razak, the premier of Malaysia, that “flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean”, let us hope the prolonged suffering of the dear ones of the people aboard the flight would find a definite closure.

Because, most of the hijack and other related conspiracy theories were in fact giving the family members a false sense of hope.

When it was only common sense to conclude by the end of first week of the missing of the aircraft that the plane and its passengers were no longer alive, Nations, especially Malaysia, seemed to be stupefied by the avalanche of theories, counter theories, (false)leads, analysis and suggestions.

So the greatest significance of Najiv Razak’s statement, though severely criticized by many as hastily and without sufficient proof, is in its conclusive nature:

The plane and all its passengers are lost in Indian Ocean. That means a crash.

The investigations of all the past air crashes had proved one point irrespective of the widely varying nature of the tragedies: Crashes never are caused by a single event, unless they are executed by people. They would always be the ultimate conclusion of a chain or chains of events. Only when there is definite, well planned and direct human intervention that the pattern of events that had led to the ultimate crash would look simple. Like a straight line. A hijack is such a straight line. A pilot-suicide-incident is another.

The final picture drawn by a series of unintentional occurrences that had culminated into a catastrophic event will always look too complex. Just like it is in the case of MH370.

Though the very complexity is the biggest give away of an accident, it is an ideal breeding ground too- for theories to sprout up: Again like what happened these days.

And just like it is for all cascading failures, it would be wise to start the analysis at the beginning.  The complexity would only have started to go up at that point.

From the full transcription of the communication between the pilots and the ATC from 00:36:30, it is evident that there were nothing abnormal about MH370 till 01:07:00. Though it was suspected otherwise, it was later proven that the ACARS might have stopped working after the, “All right, Good Night”.

Just as it had been explained in the post published March 18, the highly erratic and seemingly complex flight path the plane followed from 1.21 to 2.40 am (as corroborated by the eyewitness accounts), indicate an on board emergency that manifested suddenly, after 1.21 AM. The U turn, the climb to 45,000 ft and drop to 20,000(if primary radar readings were exact), the zig-zag path followed- all might have been the external manifestations of the desperate attempts by the humans inside to tackle the problem.

The widely shared reasoning put forward by Mr. Chris Goodfellow, who has been a pilot for 20 years, was the only other voice along this line. He said the aircraft might have been looking for an airport to land after undergoing a massive system failure caused most probably by a fire on board.

The aircraft of course might have been looking for an airport to land. But unlike what Mr.Goodfellow had suggested, the airport MH370 so frantically was flying to might not have been Langkawi.

Langkawi, around 380 km from the eastern cost of Malaysia and located on the western side, was so distant an airport to try for an emergency landing. Actually, the distance to Kuala Lumpur airport from the east coast is less- only around 275 km.

So if MH370 was indeed was looking for airport, it would have done so for an airport at a distance less than 275 km. (The length of the runway was of not that importance. B777 could land on runways as short as 6000 ft, with a little expertise).

After reaching back  the east coast, the pilots would naturally have tried to locate and land at the nearest possible airport.

And there indeed were TWO airports so close to Marang and Bachok, where the aircraft was spotted by local men that night.

1. Sultan Mahmood Airport , Kuala Terengganu ( WMKN)

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2. Sultan Ismail Petra Airport (WMKC), Kota Bharu.

View Larger Map

The distance from Marang, where the first group of eyewitnesses seen the aircraft, to Sultan Mahmood Airport, is less than 50 km. The distance from Backhok, where the second eyewitness seen the craft , to Kota Bharu airport, is just around 25 km.

The most significant fact that support this theory is the seemingly erratic path chosen by the pilot. After reaching the east cost, it simply turned north west. Eyewitness 2 at Bachok said he thought the craft was going towards the sea. Need not had been.
After an attempt to land at Sultan Mahmood Airport near Marang failed , the pilot(s) must have decided to try , Sultan Ismail Petra Airport Airport, near Bachok, roughly 150 km away. The seaward flight must’ve been to aim for the Kota Bharu airport.

The reason for aborting the landing at both the attempts is evident, though.

The operating hours of Sultan Mahmood Airport is from 7.00 AM to 10.00 PM and for Kota Bharu, it is 6.00 AM to 11.30 PM.

It of course is unlikely both the pilots were ignorant of this fact. But the situation- whatever that could be- that might have been worsening by each passing seconds, might have urged the crew to resort to this desperate measure. But without any visual indications of the runway and with no means left to communicate with the airport, MH370 would have ascended again to the gloom of the night.

If MH370 had tried to land at two airports that were known to close before 11.30 PM, the on board emergency would have been that serious, and fast escalating. So the chances are remote for the aircraft to have tried for another airport.

But, if the location where the crash occurred was indeed Indian Ocean, the aircraft might have crossed the Peninsular Malaysia. That is, again a U turn after trying to land at Kota Bharu Airport. If MH370 indeed had flown towards the western coast, that might have been to try for the third time, to land.

Which would have been the target airport this time around? A big airport, not too far from Kota Bharu and one with night landing facilities. The nearest airport that match the requirements was Penang International Airport (WMKP).  The runway (4/22 ) length   is 3352 m. The airport functions round the clock. The distance from Bachok (or Kota Bharu Airport) was less than 230 km. (To Kuala Lumpur, the distance would have been around 340 km).

Only after the CVR and DFDR are recovered, these assumptions can be proved, of course. And for the relatives of the 239 people who were aboard the flight, the answer to ‘how’ matter so little. Even then, picking up the thread of reason, however feeble and slender it is, from among the misleading myriads of facts, fiction and hearsay, is always worth the attempt.

(Jacob K Philip, a Kochi based aviation analyst, is the editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: The Plotted Path Could be All Wrong

The aircraft could have been flying towards Thailand; Accident is the most probable scenario

By Jacob K Philip

The actual path taken by the missing  Flight 370 of Malaysia Airlines after it disappeared from the civilian radar can be drastically different from the path now being considered to be that of the aircraft.

Path 1 shown below is the  one accepted by the investigators for the time being and 2 is the path the aircraft might have covered actually.


While Path 1 was plotted depending solely upon the radar data, Path 2 was developed considering both the radar data  and another information more closer to reality, the eye witness accounts of a group of people and that of an individual.

Eyewitness account 1:

Time: Around 1.20 AM, 8th March.
Location: Marang Beach, East cost of Peninsular Malaysia

Eight villagers (of Marang) here lodged police reports Tuesday claiming that they had heard a loud noise last Saturday coming from the direction of Pulau Kapas. One of them, Alias Salleh, 36, said he and seven fellow villagers were seated on a bench about 400 metres from the Marang beach at 1.20 am when they heard the noise, which sounded like the fan of a jet engine. “The loud and frightening noise came from the north-east of Pulau Kapas and we ran in that direction to find out the cause. We looked around the Rhu Muda beach but did not see anything unusual,” said the lorry driver.
Bernama, March 9, 2014

It is evident from the timing, location and the direction, that it was MH370, which vanished from the civilian radar at 1.20 am, March, 8.
Allowing a margin of 5-10 minutes, the zooming in of the plane could have happened a few minutes after the plane vanished from the civilian radar at point A. The eyewitness on the Marang beach seen the plane coming from the sea towards them. So the plane was coming from the ‘vanishing point’ back to the land.
At what altitude?
Must be too low. Something between 1000-2000 ft. Only a plane flying that low could be heard that loud. Note the men said they were so frightened by the voice that they ran.

To where the plane was heading ?

The answer is here:

Eyewitness account 2:

Time: Around 1.45 AM, 8th March.
Location: Bachok Beach, East cost of Peninsular Malaysia

A businessman in Ketereh claimed that he saw a bright white light, believed to be of an aircraft, descending at high speed towards the South China Sea about 1.45am on the day flight MH370 went missing. Alif Fathi Abdul Hadi, 29, told the New Straits Times what he saw after lodging a report with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in Tok Bali earlier today.
Alif said he was in the compound of his home when he saw the bright white light, which he described as similar to the ones used by airplanes during night flights.”I was walking towards my back door when I caught a glimpse of the white light.”It was moving towards the sea, towards Bachok area, which was unusual.”Usually, aircraft that fly over here have their usual route pattern, but this one went completely towards the other way,” he said. Alif said he watched the light’s movement for about five minutes, before realizing that it was descending.”
Bernama, March 10, 2014

If the men at Marang had seen the flight coming from the sea towards them, what Alif Fathi Abdul Hadi witnessed was a plane at a higher altitude, but descending, moving towards the sea. The sighting at Marang was around 1.20 AM. Alif saw the plane by around 1.45. The distance between the two locations is around 150 km. If it was MH370 itself, why 25 minutes to cover the short distance for a plane that can cover 550 km in an hour, even while descending ?
The answer is the bizarre climb and dive by the plane said to have gone through, as detected by the Air Force radar. Radar readings had said the aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet after the ‘vanishing point’ A and then descended to about 20,000 feet.
When Alif seen the plane, there were no frightening sound, only a white light moving away in the calm night. The altitude could have been something around 5000 to 10,000. But not 20,000.  The discrepancy could be attributed to the errors that can creep in to radar readings when the object it tracks is farther.
If these two eyewitness locations are joined (B to C), that will give the path of the plane after it returned to the land from the point above sea at which it vanished.

It may be noted that the bearing of the track is approximately 330 degrees.

Now see what Aviation Herald wrote about the accident on March 8:

On Mar 8th 2014 aviation sources in China reported that radar data suggest a steep and sudden descent of the aircraft, during which the track of the aircraft changed from 024 degrees to 333 degrees. The aircraft was estimated to contact Ho Chi Minh Control Canter (Vietnam) at 01:20L, but contact was never established.

So the initial path followed by MH370 was like this:

  • From A , the point of last contact to B, the Marang beach:  Track changed from 24 to 204. Change in altitude: from 35,000 to 1500 feet.
  • From B to C, the Bachok point: Change in altitude: Climbing from 1500 ft to 15,000 ft and then descending to an unknown altitude. Track: 330.
  • From C onwards: Details not yet known

It can be seen that the official path is plotted based on the assumption that the jet followed  the well known, published flight corridor that extent from way points to way points. Why this assumption?  Mainly because the point at which it vanished from the civilian radar was too close to a waypoint called Igari (Latitude 065610N, Longitude 1033506E).  The next sighting of the plane by the air force radar near the west coast.  And there again was a way point: Vampi (Latitude N06105600, Longitude E097350800). By now, the analysts had reached a conclusion- MH370 was travelling along a definite flight path of which, by these two and the following were way points:  Gival (Latitude N07000000, Longitude E098000000) and Igrex (Latitude N09432800 Longitude E094250000). So it was concluded that the flight was being guided by some one very familiar with navigation.

The fact that track of the path between Gival and Igrex was 308 degrees further strengthened the speculation.   308 was more or less close to 333, the number already identified as the angle of the path of the object traced by the radar.

But it can be seen that this chain of assumptions had taken MH370 much far from the more plausible path of the flight that could have been derived from a more reliable mix of data: Eyewitness accounts and the known radar data.

It may be also noted that the path from Givel to Igrex and that from Marang to Bachok are almost parallel. Or, the tracks are almost identical for both paths.  When the Air force radar read the track of the unknown flying object as 330, the object or MH370 could have been moving from Marang to Bachok and onwards. Not from Gival to Igrex as interpreted later by the investigators.

If the flight indeed was proceeding along this newly plotted path, where it was heading to?

The answer to the question is of course the key to solve this puzzle.

It can be seen that not only the directions  but the overall behavior too  of the flight was entirely different from what is being said about the initial hours of the plane.

After the transponder was switched off  one minute before way point Igari, the plane was actually going back and descending to an alarmingly lower altitude.  It was only after reaching above the land at altitude 1000-2000, that it climbed to 45,000 ft and dropped to 23,000 feet; not  after it vanished from the civilian radar. After that part of the ‘journey’, it again traveled north-east and further descended. It didn’t go west to cross the peninsula or didn’t climb to 29,000 ft after the crossing, as the radar data interpreters now tell.

So it obvious that, unlike what being widely believed now, the movements of the plane were never precise or calculated. And the highly erratic or frantic moves were sure indicators of an unexpected crisis on board.  There were no strict adherence to a well defined flight path formed by a set of  known way points. But only an alarmingly disoriented flying. Flight MH370 was sure not going to a secret terror rendezvous, but was only trying to escape from an impeding disaster. 

But, if the aircraft had indeed crashed soon, how come the pings or electronic shake hands between a satellite and the plane for at least another six hours? There of course an explanation: For the satellite to pick up, the plane need not be airborne. A running engine was sufficient. Where ever it was.

The Silence that Speaks in Volumes

After 8.11 in the morning of 8th March, 2014 (the time of last ping from the satellite to the aircraft), there were no information/communication from the plane or its passengers.

All the analysis/theories now we have are based on the happenings before 8.11 AM, March 8.

What could be the implication of the fact that absolutely no new developments/events after the morning of 8th?

What could be the meaning of the total silence from the other side of the curtain beyond which 239 human beings and a modern jet liner had gone in the early hours of March 8, 2014?

Why no communication between possible terror cells leaked out during these 10 days preceding the incident?

Seems the answer is obvious.

There were no conspiracy, no planning, no hijacking and no terror attack.

It was a plain, simple case of an air crash. Most probably in land.

(Jacob K Philip, a Kochi based aviation analyst, is the editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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Flight MH370 crashed in the forests of Peninsular Malaysia ?

 By Jacob K Philip

The decision taken today to shift the main area of search to the west for the missing flight MH370 of Malaysia Airlines may be the first major step in the right direction to solve the puzzle of the lost plane. Looking more intently at places other than South China Sea is a wise move. But if the search parties continue to ignore the land mass of peninsular Malaysia, the final answer to the puzzle could evade them further.

Because, by all probabilities, the crashed aircraft would be somewhere in the forests in the districts of Terengganu or Kelantan in peninsular Malaysia.

Actually, from day first itself, there were ample indications for this.

The Radars
The radar of Flightradar24 had plotted the path of the aircraft only up to the point of Lat: 6.97 & Lon: 103.63 in the South China Sea area around 1.41, Saturday morning. At that point, the elevation was 35,000 feet, Airspeed 471 knots, track 40 degrees. MH370 simply vanished next second. The location was South-East of Thochu Island and between the Marang coast of Malaysia and the cape of Ca Mau of Vietnam. By 8th morning, with news of the missing flight spreading fast, the images of this plotted path as captured by Flightradars24 too had been shared by many.

mh370fr24But Malaysian Air Force soon released the path of the same aircraft from their own radar. That was a little longer. And it was seen in that the plane turning almost 180 degrees to align with track 230. After the turning, the plane vanished from the military radar too.
This discrepancy between the two radar recordings was soon explained by flightradar24 in their face book page:

Today there are reports in media that MH370 may have turned around. FR24 have not tracked this. This could have happened if the aircraft suddenly lost altitude as FR24 coverage in that area is limited to about 30000 feet. FR24 have not tracked any emergency squawk alerts for flight MH370 before we lost coverage of the aircraft.

So there was a sudden loss of altitude, just before the aircraft taking the U turn. Why the drop and why the drastic turn? Reasons could be many. Encountering a sudden turbulence and falling in an air pocket could be one explanation. The fall could have been be so severe that it reached some 20,000 feet within seconds. The drastic drop might have damaged the very structure of the aircraft and many passengers aboard would have suffered injuries. Assessing the severe damages to the plane and considering the passenger injuries, the Captain would have decided to go back home- for an emergency landing. By then the integrity of the fuselage too could have been compromised. Rapid depressurization would have necessitated loosing altitude further. That explains the vanishing of the plane from air force radar after the turn. The turn and fall could also because of some hijacker demanding that. But the hijackers-on-board theory has been discarded by now by the Interpol and the Malaysian Police.

Now see this report by Bernama:

Eight villagers (of Marang) here lodged police reports Tuesday claiming that they had heard a loud noise last Saturday coming from the direction of Pulau Kapas. One of them, Alias Salleh, 36, said he and seven fellow villagers were seated on a bench about 400 metres from the Marang beach at 1.20 am when they heard the noise, which sounded like the fan of a jet engine. “The loud and frightening noise came from the north-east of Pulau Kapas and we ran in that direction to find out the cause. We looked around the Rhu Muda beach but did not see anything unusual,” said the lorry driver.

It may be remembered that Marang and Pulau Kapas are exactly along the plotted flight path of MH370.
Note the ‘loud noise’ and the direction ( ‘from Pulau Kapas’) from which that came. It is obvious that, the plane, having turned towards the land of Peninsular Malaysia, flew past the villagers at a low altitude, in the direction of Kuala Lumpur.
But why there were no communication to the ATC?

Reasons could be the two:
1. The pilots could have been be too preoccupied with getting things under control. A damaged fuselage, severely injured passengers, and failing/failed systems.
2. Time was too short. The aircraft eventually crashed a few kilometers away.

But is it possible for a crashed aircraft to go unnoticed by the villages for four days?

The answer to this question is the crash of Kenyan Airways flight 507 , a brand new Boeing 737-800 in the night (01:06 local time)of 5 May 2007. Immediately after take off from Douala International Airport, Cameroon, the plane crashed in to a small forest just 5.4 km away from the end of the runway. (It was established later that a series of errors committed by the pilots had caused the crash) .The plane hit the ground almost vertically, nose first and by the force of the impact, considerable length of the fuselage penetrated deep in to the swamp. All 114 on board were killed. The signals emitted from the craft were so mangled that, all the search for the craft were concentrated in an area 120 km away from the runway. It was almost after two days, by the evening of May 7, that a hunter accidentally spotted the crashed plane in the forest.

Elimination of other causes
All the other possibilities like terror attack, hijack or mid air disintegration etc. have been eliminated by now : The passengers with stolen passport were kids with no crime records or terror connections; The plane had not landed at any airport/airstrip and there were no communication by possible hijackers; no widespread debris could be found neither on land or in sea.
So the only plausible explanation remaining is a crash on land away from populated areas.

And this provides a satisfactory explanation to something else also: The reported ringings of the mobile phones of many passengers even after two days of the disappearance of the flight.

(Jacob K Philip,  a Kochi based aviation analyst, is the editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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Clapping & whistling onboard: If charged, Kerala Strikers can get 1 year imprisonment

By Jacob K Philip

The troubles of the 28 members of Kerala Strikers, the celebrity cricket team, who were deplaned at Kochi airport by the Commander of a Kochi-Hyderabad Indigo Airlines flight, are far from over.

If the Indigo Airlines Commander is to follow proper procedure, there are every chances for all the Strikers to get booked soon. And if the charges are proved, they might get a punishment of one year imprisonment and/or a fine of Rs 5 lakhs.

It was aboard Indigo Airlines Kochi -Hyderabad Flight 314 that the drama unfolded on Friday afternoon. As per the media reports, while the air hostesses were busy giving flight safety demonstration inside the aircraft, just before takeoff, the Strikers clapped and whistled loudly. Some other passengers said to have objected the behavior of the team. Feeling offended and insulted, the cabin crew rushed to the Captain and complained. The Captain in turn informed the ATC and brought the aircraft back to the apron and ordered the celebrity cricket team out.
Later, the organizer of the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) told the media people: “There’s no rule that says you can’t clap on board. Clapping is not a crime. We didn’t misbehave with anyone.”

Clapping is of course no crime. But disturbing the crew of an aircraft definitely is. Especially when the crew were performing a crucial duty directly related to the safety of the aircraft.

See the 23rd & 22nd rules of Indian Aircraft Rules (1937):

Rule 23
Assault and other acts endangering safety or jeopardizing good order and discipline.–
(1) No person shall, on board an aircraft, ─
(a) assault, intimidate or threaten, whether physically or verbally, any person,
(b) intentionally cause damage to or destroy any of property,
(c) consume alcoholic beverages or drugs,
which is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft or of any person or jeopardizes the good order and discipline on board the aircraft.

Rule 22:
Assault and other acts of interference against a crew member – No person shall, on board an aircraft, ─
a) assault, intimidate or threaten, whether physically or verbally, a crew member which may interfere with the performance of the duties of the crew member or lessens the ability of the crew member to perform those duties;
b) refuse to follow a lawful instruction given by the Pilot-in-Command, or on behalf of the Pilot-in-Command by a crew member, for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the aircraft or of any person or property on board or for the purpose of maintaining good order and discipline on board.

If the Kerala Strikers indeed had clapped and whistled while the safety demo was on, it is obvious that they are guilty of violating the above rules.

Now, can the Commander decide to not to proceed further with the issue?
Of course not.
As per a circular (F.No. AS/CABIN SAFETY/CIRCULAR/2010 CABIN SAFETY CIRCULAR NO. 2 OF 2010) released by DGCA on 27th January, 2010, it is mandatory for the Commander to report such incidents without any delay.

This is to reiterate that the procedure to report incidents of unruly/disruptive passenger is same as that for any reportable incident. However for the benefit of all concerned the reporting procedure is as below:
All incidents are to be reported to Director Air Safety – Headquarters (Cabin Safety Division) and in addition to Director Air Safety / Regional Controller Air Safety in whose region the flight lands after the incident.
The information is to be immediately reported by Chief of Flight Safety/Cabin Crew Nodal Officer (telephonically) as above and written information should be submitted within 12 hours of the landing of the aircraft as per the enclosed performa.

The penalty too is there in the rules. See schedule VI of the Aircraft Rules 1937 .

Offences punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with fine not exceeding five lakh rupees, or with both.

(Jacob K Philip,  a Kochi based aviation analyst, is the editor of Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net)
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Now anyone can bid for Air India Operations site

The operations website, airindiaops.com, that Air India has been maintaining for the last 14 years is now down for 17 days.

Reason: The national carrier could not renew the site before the date of expiry, 2013-11-15.

The site, which was the only online source of  information regarding crew rostering, training schedule, advisories, announcements etc was a sort of intranet site used religiously by thousands of cabin crew, pilots and ground staff from across the globe. The applications for leave could filed through this site, incidents could be reported and the full duty schedule for the next week could be downloaded.

Now the crew get this pagewhen trying to login.

The re-directed page inserted by the hosting company (Network solutions) now displays advertisements to raise some revenue. The following announcement also is there:

airindiaops.com expired on 11/13/2013 and is pending renewal or deletion.

And now any one can bid for the domain.

Just go to this page.

Minimum bid amount is $647 and starting bid was 69 $USD.

And be quick. The bidding will close on December 18.

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Now take this: An International Airport where only ATR-42 can operate

By Jacob K Philip

The recent awarding of Environmental Clearance for the controversial airport project at Aranmula, Kerala, is nothing less than a joke.

The gist of the proposal, M/s KGS Aranmula Airport Ltd had placed before Ministry of Environment & Forests was this:

“Development of Airport at Mallappuzhasserry, Aranmula and Kidangannur villages, Kozhencherry Taluk, Patthanamthitta District, Kerala on a plot area of 500 Acres to cater to air bus A – 300 aircraft. The length of the run-way in the first phase will be 2800 mtr. x 45 mtr. Construction will have G+1 floor of terminal building of 1250 sq.m. in phase I and 15000 sq.m. in phase II.”

And what the Ministry now permits to build?

From the approval letter the ministry has sent to the promoters:


(iii) Though the site is not a wetland, in view of the presence of various plants species, Proponent shall fill only minimum area required for runway, apron,taxiway etc and the remaining area will be preserved in its natural form as committed. Only the area required for runway 1000 x 150 mts shall be filled with 1 mt height…”

That is, the total length of the runway basic strip is only 1000 m.  Because it is mandatory to leave 90 m on both ends of the runway as RESA (Runway End Safety Area),  the total effective length of the runway  will be 180 m less.

So what is the length of runway  KGS people are actually getting instead of the 2800 m they asked for ?

Just this much: 1000-180 = 820 m

And what kind of an aircraft will be able operate from this 820 m runway?

That is the most difficult question the promoters will have to find an answer for themselves- that is, if they really are determined to build an airport at Aranmula.

The smallest aircraft scheduled airlines have in these parts of the world is ATR-42-300. The minimum runway length (Take off field length) required for this 45 seater turbo prop aircraft is 1040 m. But this is for a runway at sea level altitude, with no wind along the runway and with an atmospheric  temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. When the temperature and elevation are higher, runway length required would be more. With wind also, the aircraft would require to run longer.

So the only option left for the airlines would be to operate the ATR with a load penalty – that is with reduced capacity.

And in India, how many airlines operate ATR-42-300 aircraft?

Only Air India.

The maximum distance the aircraft can fly non-stop is only 840 Nautical Miles (1556 km).  So there is no question of international operations.

And can KGS expand the airport after a few years of operation, so that airlines could operate aircraft like A300 from here to foreign destinations?

The answer is a firm no.

See these two paragraphs from the MoEF letter:

“Proponent shall fill only minimum area required for runway, apron, taxiway etc and the remaining area will be preserved in its natural form as committed. ”

“Only minimum area required for runway, apron, taxiway etc would be filled and the remaining area will be preserved in its natural form. The previous owner had filled the runway of 1000 x 150 mts for airstrip. Therefore, only the area required for runway 1000 x 150 mts will be filled to a height of one meter and the soil required forland filling will be met from the elevated area of about 14.5 acres available within the site itself.”

So what really the M/s KGS Aranmula Airport is getting in the end?

A very small airport with 820 m runway from which only Air India operates a few domestic flights. The Terminal building will also be too small because the maximum number of passengers the airport will be handling per day will be some 60-80.

Now see one of the numerous news reports on the proposed International Airport getting MoEF approval:

.. Promoted by KGS Aranmula International Airport Ltd, the Rs 2,000-crore project has witnessed stiff resistance from both the political Opposition and environmentalists….  For the first phase, 500 acres of land have been acquired. Work will start soon and the airport will be ready for commercial operations in December 2015. There is no compulsory eviction of even one cent of land, George reiterated. All land acquired has been bought at market price. An integrated airport city will be developed with a Special Economic Zone. A multispecialty hospital, shopping mall, hotels and an international school are the other planned facilities. George said Malaysian Airport Holdings, Emirates, AD Paris and Changi Singapore are being invited to bid for airport operation. The airport’s ‘influential zone’ will be close to multiple tourism destinations such as Kumarakom and the backwaters of Alappuzha. It is only an hour away from Sabarimala, the second largest pilgrim centre in the country….

Really ?

(Jacob K Philip is an aviation analyst based at Kochi, India. He also edits Indian Aviation News Net. He can be reached at jacob@indianaviationnews.net) 

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Air India Express Flight 4422: No Aviation Rule to Charge Passengers

Court acquits 2009 Indigo Airlines ‘hijack’ case accused of hijack charges; Conviction only for communicating false information that endangered passengers

By Jacob K Philip

Hijack or no hijack, it is next to impossible to prosecute any of the passengers who were aboard the controversial Air India Express Flight 4422,  on October 19, 2012, on the basis of Aviation rules of the land.

The conviction on Thursday of a Chartered Accountant who three years back had caused a hijack scare aboard an Indigo Airlines flight, makes this all the more evident.

On February 1, 2009, Jitender Kumar Mohla (45) announced aboard the Indigo Airlines flight that was flying from Delhi to Goa that he was hijacking the aircraft.

Though he was accused of trying to hijack the aircraft, Mohla is now convicted not under Anti-Hijacking Act, but section 3(1)(d) of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation and 336/506/170 of the IPC. He got acquitted of charges under the Anti-Hijacking Act as “nothing incriminating was found in his possession when he was arrested. And there were no evidence on record to show that the accused entered the cockpit”.

Now let us examine again the ‘hijack’ case of Air India Express Abu Dhabi – Kochi Flight which landed at Thiruvananthapuram on October 19 morning after being diverted from Kochi. The passengers got agitated when the Pilot made the announcements that they had to make their own arrangements to reach Kochi and that she was leaving the aircraft because her flight duty time limit was exceeded. The furor that followed ended in the Pilot sending an emergency transponder signal and telling the Control Tower that the situation was ‘Hijack Like”.

It was already made evident that, because the aircraft was not in flight, the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 could not be  invoked.

The only remaining act applicable is “The Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982”, just as it was for the Mohla case.

Here is what the act has to say about the possible offenses aboard an aircraft:


3. Offense of committing violence on board an aircraft in flight, etc. —

(1) Whoever unlawfully and intentionally —

 (a) commits an act of violence against a person on board an aircraft in flight which is likely to endanger the safety of such aircraft; or

(b) destroys an aircraft in service or causes damage to such aircraft in such a manner as to render it incapable of flight or which is likely to endanger its safety in flight; or

(c) places or causes to be placed on an aircraft in service, by any means whatsoever, a device or substance which is likely to destroy that aircraft, or to cause damage to it which renders it incapable of flight, or to cause damage to it which is likely to endanger its safety in flight; or

(d) communicates such information which he knows to be false so as to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight, shall be punished with imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

 (2) Whoever attempts to commit, or abets the commission of, and offense under subsection (1) shall also be deemed to have committed such offense and shall be punished with the punishment provided for such offense.

Now,  (1) (a) is not applicable because the aircraft was not in flight.

(1) (b) also does not come in to play because no damage was done to the aircraft.

(1) (c) is not relevant as no device that can endanger the aircraft was involved in the incident

(1) (d) also is irrelevant as it deals with an aircraft in flight and no false communication was made by anyone.

The other two offenses listed in the act are the following:

3A. Offense at airport

4. Destruction of, or damage to, air navigation facilities.

3A deals obviously with incidents outside an aircraft and 4 is again not applicable because no navigational facilities were damaged.

That means no aviation safety law is violated by the passengers .

Now it is up to the local Police to invoke or not the sections of Indian Penal Code based on the written complaint of the Pilot-in-Command of the aircraft.

– jacob@indianaviationnews.net

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