By Ashish Saraf, India Syndicate, 24/05/2010
The recent Air India Express flight crash in Mangalore that killed 158 people has raised serious questions about India's performance on its aviation safety front.
The apparent cause of the accident appears to be pilot's error, but safety experts are sceptical about other factors as well, such as poor training, infrequent inspection and the difficult location of the airport. Critics say the Bajpe airport in Mangalore is one of trickiest airstrips in India and should not have been built in such a dicey spot that does not give any scope for the minutest of errors.
A 2006 audit report by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) says India has been violating hundreds of safety norms, and has scored worst in "technical personnel qualification and training." While the civil aviation ministry has claimed that the Mangalore runway complies fully with international norms, local environmental groups have cited ICAO documents to affirm that the runway does not adhere to international standards of airport design.
The ICAO protocol specifies there should be a minimum width of 150 metres on either side of the central line of the runway. But Mangalore runway is only 200 metres wide in total. In the tabletop topography where Mangalore airport is nestled, there was no space to construct a 300-metre-wide runway. The bottom line is - the runway is neither long nor wide enough to make up for any landing error.
Is India too careless about its aviation safety?
Could corruption and sycophancy be a major factor which reduces air safety in India to a joke?
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