The Air India Express plane that crashed last night at Kerala's Kozhikode airport touched down 1 km into the length of the runway at the tabletop airport, sources in the regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have told NDTV.
The Boeing 737 NG skidded off the runway and fell into a steep slide at the tabletop airport before it broke in two. The plane had been trying to land for some time. It had also rained in the area and other parts of Kerala.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh, who went to the crash site today, said the plane had fuel to attempt a diversionary landing elsewhere.
The Air India Express plane came from Dubai carrying 184 people; 18 including the two pilots died in the crash. Rescuers said the casualties would have been higher if the plane had caught fire.
Junior Foreign Minister V Muraleedharan has dismissed aspersions on the condition of the runway in Kozhikode "tabletop" airport. The Union Minister told NDTV around 100 flights have landed at Kozhikode airport since May 7 under the Vande Bharat Mission that brings home Indians who are stranded abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Yesterday itself the Civil Aviation Minister clarified that the earlier reports about the condition of the runway has nothing to do with yesterday's incident. We have a couple of tabletop airports in the country, but whether those airports are fit to continue is a larger question," Mr Muraleedharan told NDTV this morning. He also visited the crash site and later met with injured people at hospitals.
A tabletop runway sits on top of a plateau or hill with one or both ends adjacent to a steep elevation, which drops into a gorge. Such an airport presents a challenging condition for landing.