Air India Express’ runway excursion at Kozhikode REFRESHES safety concerns about the India DGAC

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India’ DGCA has graded poorly on ICAO standards competence

Some of the Air India Express accident at Kozhikode Airport match prior critiques

Time to reassess the IDGCA safety ratings???

The Kozhikode Airport at Karipur in Malappuram was the site of an unfortunate confirmation of the collective judgment of aviation safety professionals (both Indian and international). It would be premature to specify the probable cause for the B-737-800 Air India Express’s excursion from the runway. Weather, pilot error, rubber build-up on the runway among other factors may be found to have been the primary source.

However, years of criticism of the India Director General of Civil Aviation (IDGCA) have identified these elements as significant institutional weaknesses. Is it not appropriate for the Country’s safety evaluations to be downgraded?


india aviation

The Republic of India (Hindi: Bhārat Gaṇarājya) is the world’s second-most populous country, the seventh-largest country by land area, and the most populous democracy in the world. The Indian economy is the fifth-largest economy by market exchange rates, and the third largest by purchasing power parity. India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. In contrast to that it ranks 139th in the world in nominal GDP per capita.


India had 139 million domestic airline passengers in 2018 which is a substantial increase from 2017’s record 117 million passengers, a growth of 18.6 percent. It is the highest domestic air passenger growth rate for a major economy, which is followed by China at 11.7 percent. IATA projects that India will become the third largest air passenger market in the world by 2024 after it surpasses UK.


Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) [1]is responsible for regulating all aspects of the country’s aviation safety. The growth of the country’s economy and in particular aviation has stressed its resources. Not surprisingly, international review organizations have paid considerable attention to the Indian organization’s meeting of ICAO’s standards with a series of audits since 2014:

Indian DGCA’s Audit Shows The Technical Aviation Safety Competence Needed For International Acceptance

Will The DGCA Receive Its Category I Before, During Or After The President’s Visit To India?

India’s Category I Reinstatement Was Conditioned–What Do The Four “Deficiencies” Indicate About Its Aviation Safety?

Inscrutable India DGCA May Need More Scrutiny On Aviation Safety Matters

IDGCAExpert’s Early “Suspecting” About The Cause Of The Air India Tragedy Is Not A Standard Aviation Safety Protocol

India’s DGCA Is Being Audited Again; Standards Matter

Is IDGCA Not Instilling In Air India Attention To Details?

Cow Able To Gain Access To India’s 5th Largest City’s Airport Runway

FAA inspector

FAA Inspectors Are Returning To India For The Third Time- Pending Major Questions

India’s Slow Response To Inebriated Pilot Problem- Should There Be A List Of Standards For All CAAs?

EASA’s Certificate Action In Hyderabad, India Raises Global Policy Issues


The recurrent theme is that the IDGCA has the problems associated with a bureaucratic organization- deficient training, poor distribution of staff, substandard recruiting, poor moral/ management-vs-employees dissatisfaction, unnecessary intervention by non-technical outsiders, etc.

Multiple reviews have repeated these deficiencies. In spite of those below standard findings, political influence has reversed the subject matter experts and facilitated the Country’s FAA IASA, ICAO USOAP and EASA ratings at acceptable levels.

Is it appropriate to audit, once again, the IDGCA’s rating???


Here are the initial reports, edited for brevity and to avoid redundancy). Reading them will provide some good background:


from the Kozhikode Airport at Karipur in Malappuram


Kozhikode airport mishap: Experts blast DGCA, others for ignoring airport safety audits


Capt Ranganthan …Safety expert says he had warned the authorities in 2011 that Runway 10 of Kozhikode airport is unsafe for landing, especially in tailwind conditions in rain. His grim warning was contained in his communication to the chairman of Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC) and other authorities.

…”The DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) has to make airport authorities accountable. In this case, they should shut down the airport or suspend operations briefly,” said Rangnathan. The DGCA had reportedly issued a notice to the Kozhikode airport after an audit revealed safety concerns over “excessive rubber deposits” on the runway, an occurrence that poses even higher risks in case of rains.

Charan Dass, former joint DG at the DGCA, says airports need to follow the International Civil Aviation Organization standards. “Otherwise no country will allow its flights to your airports, he said.

Kerala plane crash: Kozhikode airport operator addressed all issues DGCA red-flagged, says Hardeep Puri


All issues such as excessive rubber deposits, water stagnation and cracks that were red-flagged by the aviation regulator DGCA were “addressed and rectified” by the Kozhikode airport operator, said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Saturday.

The statement came after news reports said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had issued a show-cause notice to the director of the Kozhikode airport on July 11 last year after it found “various critical safety lapses” in different places, including the runway and the apron.

“It is indeed a fact that several issues were routinely red-flagged by DGCA, and were addressed by the (Kozhikode) airport operator. These pertain to excessive rubber deposits, water stagnation, cracks and other routine issues,” Puri tweeted a day after a plane crash in Kozhikode that claimed 18 lives.

The point is that raising such concerns is the normal work of the DGCA, he noted.

“The DGCA also strictly ensures that these are complied with and rectified under all circumstances. This was done by the airport operator,” the minister added.

Kerala plane tragedy: Did excess tailwind lead to crash?

India Airport

Indicating that “poor judgement” by the pilots led to Friday’s Air India Express crash, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Chief Arun Kumar on Saturday said the Kozhikode International Airport runway was long enough for a safe landing.

The flight had landed at the 3,000-ft mark on the nearly 9,000-ft runway. It was also likely that the pilots switched off the engine to slow down the aircraft, Kumar told a private television channel, based on preliminary information from the crash site.

An aviation safety consultant also hinted at a probable pilot error. He told DH that a decision to land the aircraft despite the tailwind exceeding the speed limit could have triggered the crash. The tailwind, which pushes it from behind, was in the was in the range of 12 knots (22.22 kmph), exceeding the 10-knot limit.

Ground arrestor system: Avoiding runway overshoot disasters

Emass at LGA

In 2016, a plane carrying then-Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence overshot a runway in New York’s La Guardia airport. Experts say a disaster was prevented by the “arrestor bed” at the end of the runway.

DUBAI: In recent years, aviation authorities have recommended that “table-top” airports should adopt ground arrestor at the end of the runway.

The life-saving value of such a system was highlighted following the deadly runway overshooting incident that killed at least 18 people at the Kozhikode airport in India on Friday night (August 7, 2020).

Kozhikode airport’s two runways, 2,700 metres in length, sit on top of a hill in India’s Kerala state.

This “safety area” is now an FAA standard. Many runways were built before its adoption. For those locations that do not have the space for a full safety area, “soft ground arrestors” provide an engineered solution to restore a margin of safety.


Runway safety-related accidents continue to represent the most significant source of aviation accidents worldwide and remain aviation’s number one safety risk category.

Data from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) data show that about half of all aviation accidents reported to ICAO were runway-safety related.

Of those runway-related accidents, 35 percent were the result of a runway excursion, which occurs when an aircraft veers off or overruns the runway…What happened to the proposal?

In 2012, airport authorities rejected proposals to implement additional safety measures, citing “high operational and maintenance cost”…


Spotlight on more airports after Air India plane crash in Kozhikode


Patna Airport: Runway length shorter than prescribed. Bird hits are also common at Patna’s Jai Prakash Narayan International Airport. As per the Federal Aviation Administration, the US, the adequate runway length required for a safe landing of Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s is 2,300 metres.

Patna airport’s runway length is of just 2,072 metres — of which 1,938 metres is for landing from the East and 1,677 metres for landing from the West.

Patna profile

Jammu Airport: Runway length shorter than prescribed. Has had incidents of overshooting the runway in the past.

Shimla Airport: Runway length the biggest issue. Located at Jubbarhatti — Shimla Airport is 2,196 metres above the sea level — and is one of country’s ‘riskiest’ tabletop airport. Experts believe its length is 300 metres short of the required length.

At present, the runway at Shimla airport is less than 1,200-metre long and its expansion is facing abnormal delays owing to the nearby forest area and private land. For the runway extension, the minimum required length is 1,500 metres which enables a 40-seater aircraft to operate as per the new safety norms, a state civil aviation official, requesting anonymity, told IANS.

Mangalore Airport: Tabletop runway. In 2010, Air India plane had overshot the runway and fell into the gorge killing 158 people. The Court of Inquiry had said the cause of the accident was the captain’s failure to discontinue the “unstabilised approach” and his persistence in continuing with the landing, despite three calls from the first officer to “go around” and several warnings from Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS).

Calicut (Kozhikode) Airport: Tabletop runway. The tragic Air India crash has brought the focus on Runway 10 and safety standards. “Death due to an accident is something which happens when you don’t know but when you knew the danger existed and you were warned about it and you took no action and an accident takes place, then it is murder,” aviation safety expert Captain Ranganathan told PTI. Captain Ranganathan had flagged concerns about Kozhikode airport runway, on Saturday said regulator DGCA should not allow the landing of flights during monsoons on runway 10 at the aerodrome.

Kullu Airport: Short runway located in a deep valley. Poses a challenge considering its location.

Aizawl Airport: The Aizawl airport, which is also known as Lengpui airport is a domestic airport located at a distance of 32 km from Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram. Tabletop runway is, however, safe for landing as Airbus A320 or mid cargo aircraft. J.Lalhmingliana, the Principal Consultant in the Civil Aviation wing of the General Administration Department, told PTI that the runway having 2,500 metres length and whose breadth is 45 metres, has enough space and is strong enough for a safe landing.

Leh Airport: Flightpath between mountains makes the flight to Leh one of the most breathtaking in the world. Nestled in the Himalayas, Leh Airport in Ladakh is one of the most strategically significant for India. The airport, at a height of 3,256 m above sea level, is one of the highest in the world. But the location also means a certain extra risk involved in landing.

These are few airports whose location or runway length is often debate as risk-prone. World over, some airports are considered dangerous or risky due to their geographical locations. Some also term it as among the most beautiful airports. Agatti Aerodrome (AGX), Lakshadweep, India, Lukla Airport (LUA), Nepal, Courchevel Airport (CVF), France, Kansai International Airport (KIX), Japan, Gibraltar International Airport (GIB), Gibraltar, Svalbard Airport (LYR), Norway are among airports that are breathtaking and risk-prone.


Kozhikode Plane Crash: AAI Chief On Kozhikode Plane Crash Will Take Corrective Action After Receiving Probe Report – Causes of accident will probably be discovered after AAIB report: AAI


He stated, this report will give us details about all the problems, we’re ready for the investigation report after which we’ll take corrective steps. Chairman of Airports Authority of India Singh replied within the damaging when requested whether or not any security-related difficulty had come up within the eyes of AAI.

What do you think about the IDGCA’s safety status?

Air India Express crash site






[1] The DGCA is supposed to be replaced by the Civil Aviation Authority.

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2 Comments on "Air India Express’ runway excursion at Kozhikode REFRESHES safety concerns about the India DGAC"

  1. another interesting perspective–

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