Air India plane crashes in Mangalore; 158 dead, 8 survivors

Mangalore: crashpilotstory.jpgHundred fifty-eight persons were killed in India's worst air disaster in over a decade. The Air India Express flight, a plane of Air India's low budget carrier was flying from Dubai to Mangalore with 160 passengers and six crew members on board. (First pics of crash)

On landing the plane overshot the runway, went down a ravine and burst into flames. (Watch | Read: 1 in 4 air crashes during landing: Analysis)

Eight persons miraculously survived the crash after the two-and-a-half-year-old Boeing 737-800 with an experienced Serbian pilot in command missed the touchdown area at the 8,000-feet 'table top' runway at Mangalore's Bajpe airport. (Read: Miraculous escape for eight)

Reports indicate the pilot missed the landing spot and flew beyond the touchdown point. In fact, he over shot by over 2,000 feet, which is almost unprecedented. (Pics: What went wrong)

He then reportedly tried to stop by hard braking. It was at this time that the tyres burst. The plane veered violently, and on the way hit an antenna at the edge of the runaway. At this point, the plane broke and split up at the edge of the runway. (Watch: Relatives rush to Air India office in Dubai)

Some lucky ones were thrown out possibly close to the tarmac area. These eight were fortunate to survive. (See: Passenger list) (Read: Over 50 air crash victims believed to be Keralites)

"The tyre burst the moment the plane landed. There was no scope for escape. The tyre burst the moment the plane landed and overshot the runway and crashed into the forest. Within a few seconds there was a blast. There was smoke. I saw some trees and managed to get out of the plane. Another passenger was trying to escape. I tried to help him out by pushing him out, but he got stuck in the cable. Our hands and faces caught fire. I somehow managed to get out. Some locals helped me reach the hospital. I think there was a problem with the runway. The runway is not smooth because of which the flight shook on landing," said a survivor. (Watch: Tyre burst upon landing, says survivor) | (Survivor list)

Seconds later the plane fell into the valley and caught fire. It was 6:05 am.

Then it was simply impossible for anyone to get out. Soon after, Mangalore air officials and nearby villagers rushed to the spot to help survivors. (Read: All dead bodies recovered)

Some were rescued, but for most it was too late. (Watch: Villagers come to the rescue)

Mangalore airport shut down immediately and the entire administration began rescue and relief operations. The helpline numbers for Mangalore are 0824-2220422, 2010167. (Read: Flight operations resume at Mangalore airport)

Air India opened a helpline centre at Delhi Airport. The numbers are 011-25656196, 25603101.

The Mangalore airport is considered tricky for aircraft landings and take offs, particularly in the rainy season because it is what is called a 'table top' airport. (Read: What is a table-top airport? | Watch: Can't doubt airport safety, says Ex-DGCA)



It took over six hours to douse the fire. The plane was almost completely burnt. All that was visible was its tail.

The Boeing 737-800, which was inducted on January 15, 2008 and piloted by British national of Serbian origin Captain Zlatko Glusica, had 160 passengers and a six-member crew on board the budget carrier, flight IX-812. The passengers included four infants.

The Civil Aviation Minister who rushed to the site, made it clear that the pilots were highly experienced.

"The pilot had 10,200 hours of flying experience. Of these, he had 7,000 hours as a pilot in command and had over 2000 hours on a Boeing plane. He was also familiar with Mangalore airport and had flown in and out several times," said Praful Patel, Union Aviation Minister. (Read: Pilot had landed 19 times at Mangalore, co-pilot 66 times)
 
The minister also dismissed reports that weather was a factor at the time of landing. There were calm winds, no rain, and the runaway was dry.

Owning "moral responsibility" for the Mangalore air crash, Praful Patel is also believed to have offered to resign to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who reportedly turned down the offer. (Read: PM declines Praful Patel's offer to resign)

The Prime Minister and Congress President Sonia Gandhi conveyed their condolences. The dinner that was to be hosted by the Dr Manmohan Singh tonight to mark completion of one year of UPA-2 in government has also been postponed, say PMO sources. (Read: Prime Minister's message)

The Prime Minister also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of those killed in the crash and Rs 50,000 for the injured from the PM's National Relief Fund. (Read: Kin of crash victims to get up to Rs 76 lakh compensation)

The entire wreckage has been found, but there is still no sign of the black box. Once that is found, many questions will perhaps be answered in what has been India's worst air disaster in the last ten years.

Also read: Past crashes on Indian soil

Story First Published: May 22, 2010 09:23 IST

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