Kerala tragedy: To probe deadliest air disaster in a decade, team of 5 set up by AAIB

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), the regulatory body in charge of the investigation into the worst air disaster in India in a decade that has claimed 18 lives including two pilots, on Thursday appointed a team of five investigators to lead the probe.

The director general of regulatory body AAIB has appointed Capt SS Chahar, former designated examiner on B737NG, as the Investigator- in-Charge, according to an order issued by AAIB on Thursday. HT has reviewed a copy of the order.

The Investigator-in-Charge will complete the inquiry and submit the report to AAIB preferably within five months from the date of issue of this order, it stated.

He will be assisted by Operations Expert Ved Prakash; Senior Aircraft Maintenance Engineer -B737 Mukul Bhardwaj; Gp. Capt. (Dr.) Y S Dahiya, Aviation Medicine Expert and Jasbir Singh Larhga, Deputy Director AAB.

“The Investigator-in-Charge may take the assistance of other experts/agencies whenever required. The headquarters of the investigation will be at New Delhi,” the order said.

“Whereas Boeing 737-800 aircraft VT-AXH, of M/s Air India Express Ltd, while operating a scheduled flight from Dubai International Airport, UAE, met with an accident on August 7, 2020 during landing at Kozhikode International Airport. And, whereas the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), India desires as per its mandate to investigate and determine the probable causes) and contributory factor(s) leading to the accident and make recommendations to avoid recurrence of such accident in future,” the order said.

“Now, in exercise of the powers conferred by the Rule 11 (1) of the Aircraft (Accident and Incidents Investigation) Rules 2017, the Director General-AAIB, India hereby orders an investigation into the said accident to find out the probable causes.”

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had announced last week that the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered from the crash site. The cockpit voice recorder keeps a recording of all the conversations taking place in a plane’s cockpit and along with the flight data recorder, which logs data such as airspeed, altitude and fuel flow, it can help in determining the cause of the crash.

The Boeing 737 jet, on a Vande Bharat mission as flight AIX 1344 from Dubai that was bringing in Indians who were stranded abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic, met with an accident while landing at the Kozhikode airport in treacherous conditions on August 7, breaking into two — making it one of the deadliest commercial aviation disasters in the country in nearly 10 years.

The crash occurred around 7.40pm and bore striking similarity to the 2010 Mangalore airport crash when a plane, also an Air India Express Boeing 737, overshot a table-top runway and crashed nose-first.

The aviation regulator has also banned the use of wide-body aircraft during the monsoon at Kerala’s Calicut airport and decided to divert them to neighbouring airports during the monsoon season. The aviation regulator is also planning to conduct safety audits across airports in regions that receive high rainfall, he added.

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