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Dubai-Mangalore flight had landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule: ATC

By Vicky Nanjappa
August 17, 2010 22:01 IST
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Did an early arrival cause the Air India Express to crash at Mangalore airport?

Staffers of the Air Traffic Control of the Mangalore airport made two shocking revelations on day one of the proceedings in the Mangalore air crash case -- the Air India flight had landed 30 minutes ahead of its schedule and the radar at the airport was non-functional at the time of the crash.

A special court of inquiry set up on the directive of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to probe the horrific Mangalore air crash, which claimed over a 100 lives on May 22, commenced its hearing at the Bajpe airport on Tuesday.

Also, it was not the first time that the flight had missed its schedule. The air traffic authority told the court on Tuesday that for every 100 landings, the AI plane had landed 49 times beyond schedule.

On May 22, the Air India Dubai-Mangalore flight had landed at 6 am instead of the scheduled 6.30 am arrival.

Even on the ill-fated day, the Dubai-Mangalore Air India flight had landed ahead of schedule -- this revelation prompted the commission of inquiry to raise questions

The commission was questioning Girish Kamath, the watch supervisory officer of the Air Traffic Control.

On the commission's query, Kamath said late or early landings did create problems.

Kamath also told the court that the airport's radar was not functioning at the time of the crash, adding that the landing procedures were being done manually for two days before the crash.

The ATC opens the airport at 6 am while the staff on night shift complete their shift at 5.30 am, the officer said.

He added that there was no staff problem at the time of the crash as there were nine staffers at the airport then. However, he said, the flight had landed ahead of schedule and this had led to some problems.

When the commission asked Kamath whether he had complained to Air India regarding the radar, he said no.

Mahesh Pai, duty officer at the ATC, told the court that he had seen a ball of fire near the localiser before the crash and he even triggered the siren and contacted other officials.

He, however, added that at such crucial times, it is the pilot who is the best judge.

Ronald John of the meteorological department said the visibility at the airport was good at the time of the crash. "The wind was calm, there was no drizzle and the runway was dry," he said.

The commission of inquiry, which is headed by B N Gokhale and six others, recorded the statements of 20 witnesses on day one of the proceedings.
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