The condition of 14 passengers of the ill-fated Air India Express plane that crashed while attempting to land at the Karipur airport in Kerala remains critical, Malappuram district collector K Gopalakrishnan said on Sunday.
Eighteen people, including the pilot and co-pilot of the AIE flight from Dubai, lost their lives in the crash. The plane had overshot the tabletop runway at the airport while landing in heavy rains and fell into a valley 35 ft below and broke into two portions late evening on 7 August.
“Till now, 49 people have been discharged from various hospitals in Malappuram and Kozhikode. The condition of 14 people remains critical,” Gopalakrishnan said.
The remaining 109 people are under treatment at different hospitals.
Meanwhile, investigators have started examining the black box of the Boeing-737 to determine the exact cause of the crash. Arun Kumar, head of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), said the country would open the recovered transcripts to international investigators, as well as manufacturer Boeing. “Only after conducting a thorough and unbiased probe can we tell what exactly happened,” Kumar said.
The 2,700 m runway at the airport is known as a “table-top”, an aviation term for runways with steep drops at one or both ends. They leave little room for error should a pilot overshoot the runway, either through human error or mechanical failure.
An air traffic control official familiar with the crash confirmed this version of events. He added it was unusual to attempt a landing at the airport with a tailwind, which is typically used for takeoffs.
“The length of the runway in Calicut is around 2,700 m and the plane touched the ground after crossing 1,000 m of the length, leaving less room to bring the aircraft to a halt,” the official, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said.
“It was windy and rainy and the runway surface was wet. In such instances the weather is dynamic. An aircraft typically lands and departs in a headwind as a tailwind increases the speed of the plane,” the official said.
A spokesman for Air India did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has already said it will pay compensation to the families of the deceased.