What about the role of ATC in the air crash?

Posted: May 23, 2010 in Uncategorized
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As every media outlet does an analysis into the reasons of the Air India Express flight IX-812 that crashed off the Mangalore airport runway, none of them are looking into the role of the Air Traffic Controller (ATC).

What we know is that the pilot overshot the runway. So taking that as a lead, the immediate clarification has been that the expatriate Serbian-born British pilot had plenty of experience and had also flown in and out of the airport 19 times. Now that does not mean he is in the clear because a pilot can still be asleep or fatigued and errors can creep in but none of these are being discussed especially since another Air India flight about two months back had a similar occurence. It was the ATC at Mumbai airport who rang a shrill buzzer in the cockpit to wake these pilots up.

What we also know is that the last communication with the pilot and the ATC was the former acknowledging confirmation of landing with the help of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) which aligns the plane to the runway automatically.

Even the experts have been saying the first and foremost viewpoint to be considered at this point is the angle at which the pilot was coming in. Obviously he was higher than the normal three degree approach. So before jumping the gun and speculating what happened next – did the tyre burst, the runway was not smooth and very tight, was there an engine failure, was it a botched attempt of a turnaround or visibility was good or bad – the first thing as a layman would like to know is could the ATC be in the know of the angle and the height at which the aircraft was.

Height, for sure, had to be higher because the pilot did overshoot the runway and if he was familiar with the terrain he would not have made it by error. The ATC can know the height for sure and why did it not warn the pilot of the height?

The other thing that is confirmed is the ATC telling the pilot to take the approach back to the terminal and wanted to know their status by which time things had gone horribly wrong. From the version of accounts, it is clear that the ATC was in the dark (sic) and could not have a direct visual contact of the plane.

Now that is what’s most intriguing. For a small airport, which is aiming for international status in the near future, with two runways in the V-formation, it is strange to hear that the ATC had to ask the pilot where they are. Hours after the disaster, none of the ATC officials have come on record. Why?

One would surely likely to know that. What can be said for sure is that if turns out that the air safety rules have been compromised by the Indian aviation officials, the deceased expat pilot will be the natural scapegoat after at least one year of enquiry commissions and a painful wait. Such it goes.

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