Not pilot fatigue, but admin work is taxing


The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, which is probing the Mangalore air crash, is trying to ascertain whether the crash was caused by a technical snag or due to pilot error.

Vishwanath Mala, who was a pilot with Air India for 15 years, says that any investigation into such incidents should not only focus on the reasons for the crash, but should also suggest measures that ensure such incidents never occur. Interestingly Mala adds that an Air India pilot is not fatigued due to the flying hours, but due to the administrative tasks when is not flying.

Mala was with Air India between 1961 and 1998. He flew aircraft for 15 years and retired as a senior executive. He spoke with rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa regarding the ongoing investigation and what the role of a pilot ought to be.

Pilot Fatigue:

On recent flights, I saw the flight commandant receiving passengers at the entrance. I was shocked when I saw this. There is a crew dedicated for such work and I don’t understand why the commandant is expected to do this.

What pilot fatigue are we talking about today? On a flight to Dubai the pilots get enough rest. I have flown the Mumbai-London route for several years. It is a 14-hour flight. The fatigue is calculated and accepted. All this is part of the job and we are trained to be ready for it. We are aware of the risk that we are taking while flying long hours and once the journey is complete, we took ample rest.

What bothers me however is that in Air India, 90 per cent of the pilots are in the office when they are not flying. They are doing administrative jobs at this time. That is not the job of the pilot. Their job is to fly and it is unfortunate that they get into these administrative jobs, keeping their promotions in mind. What tends to happen in such cases is that they do an administrative job, go home, rest a while and then fly. I feel that a pilot should only fly and in the remaining hours he should rest and not do any other job.

As pilots, they should only focus on flying. There is a need to change the manner in which the system works across the board.

The Mangalore Airport:

I was very much part and parcel of the team which made various suggestions on the setting up of the airport. In 2006 when the new international terminal was inaugurated, I was a guest of honour. I had suggested that the runway be made a bit longer. However more than that what I wanted done was to lower the airfield and get more flat area. Further we had said that if the airfield was lowered then we could getan additional area of 3,000 feet. This is a 8,050 feet airfield and under normal circumstance there is nothing wrong. However, Mangalore is not a normal situation. It is a table-top with valleys on either side. Bearing this in mind, the authorities would have done well to lower the area.

The probe:

The black box is mounted near the tail area of the plane, which is least impacted during a crash. It is the nose and wing areas which sustain the most damage during a crash.

However I think that the investigation had been very badly-handled so far. The first thing that should be done was retrieval of the bodies, which was done perfectly, but why wasn’t the area cordoned off while search operations were on?

Everything from the position of the wing, the nose and the tyre are important aspects in the investigation. A crash site should be treated as sacrosant. During the retrieval of bodies many parts of the aircraft would have moved. Once this activity is completed, all the parts need to be put together so as to determine what exactly went wrong. Re-assembling the aircraft is very important since this helps determine how exactly the airplane was ripped open. If the area is not cordoned off and there is extensive movement, then there is every chance of losing vital parts which could hamper the probe.

Looking at the manner in which it is going at the moment, I am pretty sure that the investigation will be a shoddy job. There appears to be no honesty left and the entire effort it appears to be to hush things up and shift the blame.

Investigations should not aim at putting the blame or just ascertaining the reason for the crash. Investigators should think long term and suggest various means to avoid such unfortunate incidents in the future.

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Better infrastructure, less stressed crew needed

In the worst air crash in India in the last decade, an Air India flight from Dubai overshot the runway and crashed at the Mangalore airport on Saturday morning, killing 158 passengers.

As authorities probe the cause of the crash, a range of factors from the lack of safety infrastructure to the absence of a metallic runway at the airport have been blamed for the crash.

Walter D’souza, editor-in-chief of popular website Daijiworld, is a regular traveler on the Dubai-Mangalore route. In a conversation with rediff.com, D’souza said that he takes the same flight from Mangalore every time he travels to Dubai, and the incident has shocked him.

“The incident is unfortunate. This runway has been in operation since 2006 and just because of this incident, it is unfair to blame it.

“I have traveled on that aircraft several times and I fly to Dubai every month. This flight takes off from Mangalore at 9 pm and reaches Dubai by midnight. It stops there for an hour and then immediately returns to Mangalore. I feel that the maintenance time is too short for this flight and the aviation authorities are completely dodging this point. I have felt that the crew and the aircraft are overburdened.

“Over the years, the number of people going to Dubai has increased, and so has the number of flights. There were just three flights per week in 2006. The number of flights later increased to seven and then to ten. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, two flights shuttle between Mangalore and Dubai. There is a need to operate additional aircraft on this route.

“The airport has been running smoothly for some time. But there is a need to set up 1,000 metres of additional runway for better operations. This incident was a clear case of pilot’s error and it is very clear that the aircraft hit a pole before it crashed,” he said.

Vikram Hegde, a senior advocate in Mangalore, points out that the schedule for Dubai-bound flights is very hectic. He tells rediff.com that the airport should be expanded as people from coastal Kerala, northern Karnataka and south Karnataka use it.

“There has been a lot of criticism regarding the runway. But a table top airport is a better bet when compared to the Mumbai airport, where the aircraft flies through the city.

“The aviation industry can provide better infrastructure. There have been 32,000 landings at the Mangalore airport so far. The air traffic to Gulf is extremely heavy and during the holiday season, it almost doubles.

“Regarding the arrangements that have been made following this incident, I have not heard anyone complaining. The local hospitals have managed despite low infrastructure and full marks have to be awarded to them,” he said.

Tragedy in the skies: Day 2


DNA experts to help in identifying bodies
The team of DNA experts from Hyderabad, who arrived in Mangalore on Sunday morning to help in identifying the bodies of the Air India plane crash, has its task cut out. The team will stay in the coastal town till each victim’s body is identified. Most of the bodies have been charred beyond recognition in the plane crash.

A dispute has broken out between the families of Rajendra Ramesh and John Mampilly, both of whom have staked claim for the same body. Ramesh is a resident of Mangalore while John hails from Kasargod in Kerala. The authorities at the Wenlock Hospital had a tough time on Sunday in handling the two grief-stricken families.

The DNA experts from Hyderabad have collected samples from the body, but the results will take a couple of days to arrive.

According to a member of the team, it will take at least seven more days to identify the 12 unclaimed bodies of victims. The Wenlock Hospital authorities have urged the relatives of the deceased to remain calm and assured them that they are doing their best.

Air India has announced that it will fly special flights between Dubai and Mangalore and has urged the Centre to issue interim visas to relatives of the deceased who stay abroad.

Cockpit Voice Recorder recovered

The team from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, which is probing the Air India plane crash that claimed 158 lives near the Mangalore airport on Saturday, has been divided into four groups to look at a particular aspect of the crash. The four teams will look into engineering and wreckage, operations, air traffic control and aerodrome.

A release from the civil aviation ministry states that wreckage group has further been divided into smaller groups to search for a particular kind of evidence.

The search team on Sunday recovered the Cockpit Voice Recorder from the wreckage. Though affected by fire, it is expected to yield the desired information.

The Digital Flight Data Acquisition Unit, a parallel unit of the Digital Flight Data Recorder which records flight parameter for a shorter duration, has been recovered.

A preliminary replay of the Air Traffic Control tapes has been already carried out and a detailed analysis is being carried out, says the release.

It adds that the preliminary investigation of navigational facilities, the aerodrome and runway facilities at the time of the accident has been completed.

Necessary records about the plane and the crew members have been taken for detailed analysis. The analysis of CVR, flight data and the various records will take nearly a fortnight.

Search for the black box continues..

The search for the black box of the ill-fated Air India flight — which crashed near Mangalore airport on Saturday morning killing 158 people on board — will commence at 6.30 am on Monday. Search operations were called off on Sunday due to poor light.

Though the search team could detect signals from the black box, it was unable to retrieve the box buried under the massive wreckage at the crash site, a source told rediff.com.

The black box is crucial for the investigation into the reason behind the crash as it will help the probe team ascertain the exact reason behind the plane overshooting the runway and plunging into the ravine.

The search party managed to recover the cockpit voice recorder, but the probe team from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation may not be able to glean much information from it, other than a recording of the Air Traffic Controller giving its clearance for the landing.

ATC officials had already told the DGCA team that they lost touch with the pilots in the final moments before the plane crash.

The DGCA personnel, who are investigating the crash, say that it appears to be a case of pilot’s error. “We have inspected the runway and the crash site as well as the object the plane hit and it appears that the pilot was at fault. We are waiting for the black box which will give us a clear picture,” said a DGCA official.

12 bodies to be still identifed: AI cheif

Twelve bodies of the victims of the Air India plane crash in Mangalore were yet to be identified, said AI Managing Director Arvind Jadhav in a press conference on Sunday.

“I regret what has happened,” he said, adding that AI will provide Rs 10 lakh compensation to the families of victims above the age of 12 and Rs 5 lakh for the kin of those below that age.

He also announced compensation of Rs two lakh for the injured victims, but added that AI was in consultation with insurance companies on how to take this further.

Jadhav informed that bodies of 128 victims had been handed over to their families.

When asked about the investigations into the reason behind the crash, he said that the airline was not involved with that as the “Directorate of Civil Aviation was probing the crash.”

On the issue of expat pilots, he said, “As per the DGCA’s rule, we need to take prior
permission before an expat pilot flies a plane. We have submitted a plan for the replacement of expat pilots. We needed them because we needed experienced pilots to fly new aircraft.”

Speaking on whether the pilots were suffering from fatigue, Jadhav added, “There was no problem and both the pilots had ample rest before flying the plane.”

The search for the plane’s black box was going on and it had not been found yet, he said.

Urging people and the media not to speculate on the reasons behind the crash, Jadhav said speculations would harm the interests of the victims.

“It was an international flight. It has international ramifications. Speculations will hurt the interests of the passengers,” Jadhav said.

“Only 12 per cent of the operations have been affected. On Air India Express, 90 per cent of the operations are on,” he said.

“We are overwhelmed by the kind of response (we got) from the local villagers who reached the spot and helped in rescue operations. Without them, the eight persons could not have survived,” Jadhav said.

Hope and grief

Tales of tragedy, grief, dashed hopes and relief surround the crash of the Boeing 737-800 in Mangalore. While some of them are about people who missed the ill-fated flight by a whisker, others are about passengers who took the doomed flight at the last minute.

Among the many tragic stories about the crash victims, one is about Zulekha and her son Abdul Salam, who were returning to Kaup near Mangalore after eight years to meet Zulekha’s mother. But the mother’s dream of meeting her daughter and grandson was never fulfilled.

Praveen Sherigar, a resident of Matharu, was coming home for a double celebration. He wanted to attend his brother’s wedding and his sister’s house warming function.

Jayram, who hails from Bajal in Mangalore, was going to visit his ailing parents with his wife Chitra and son Rahul. In a cruel twist of fate, he could not get tickets to a flight two days ago, and was forced to board the Air India flight.

Steven Rego, 16, can thank his stars and his mother, whose mistake made him miss the flight to Mangalore. He was holidaying in Dubai with his parents and was supposed to return to Mangalore on Saturday. Although his mother had booked tickets for Saturday’s flight, she got confused about the timing. She mistakenly assumed that the flight was supposed to take off on Saturday night and hence Rego missed his flight.

K Chandu, who was scheduled to travel to Mangalore for his son’s admission, could not do so because of the additional work assigned to him by his boss.

Teresamma Phillip made a similar mistake as Rego’s mother. She thought the flight was going to take off on Saturday evening and hence missed her brush with tragedy.

Hospitals become a sea of humanity

Hospitals in Mangalore on Sunday struggled to cope with scores of grieving family members who turned up to collect the bodies of their loved ones. Heart-rendering scenes of grief and disbelief were witnessed at Wenlock Hospital and others, where the bodies of the Air India plane crash victims were kept after the tragedy.

On Saturday night, when search operations were still going on in the ravine where the plane landed after overshooting the runway, relatives of the passengers harboured hopes that maybe their loved one had managed to survive the crash.

But their night-long wait came to a hopeless end when they learnt that only eight passengers had managed to survive miraculously.

A forensic team from Hyderabad has arrived in Mangalore to assist the bereaved families in identifying the bodies, most of which are charred beyond recognition. So far, 87 bodies have been identified, including those of the six crew members, who were all killed in the crash.

“The wait is never-ending and it is tough waiting for experts to identify the bodies of our loved ones. We are just waiting for the obvious,” says Sameera, whose brother was on board the ill-fated aircraft.

“It is a day-long process, but we will ensure that we complete it (identifying the dead bodies) as early as possible. We don’t want to keep the families waiting since we can understand their anxiety,” said one of the members of the team.

Black box holds the clues

A day after the Boeing 737-800 crashed near Mangalore airport, killing 158 people on board, search teams at the site are still looking for the Cockpit Voice Recorder or the black box which may reveal the reason behind the crash.

A member of the Karnataka police team, which is carrying out search operations at the crash site, told rediff.com that the massive wreckage of the ill-fated plane has to be cleared before looking for the black box.

Jija Hari Singh, inspector general of police (fire and emergency service) said, “The black box will be found on Sunday. The work of recovering the bodies has to be completed first and only then can we begin searching for the black box.”
The area where the black box fell after the crash has been identified.

The search party has managed to find the throttle of the plane in a forward position, indicating that the pilot thrust the aircraft in a forward position before the crash.

The black box is crucial to probe the reason behind the crash. The preliminary finding of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation suggests that the pilot’s error could have caused the crash.

The DGCA is now trying to find out why the pilot overshot the runway by over 1,500 feet. The Air Traffic Controllers had issued a landing clearance approximately 4 miles before the touchdown, but the pilot seemed to have lost contact with the ATC during the final moments.

The DGCA team will also look into whether the plane experienced any technical difficulties at the time of landing. “Although it is highly unlikely that there was anything wrong with the plane, we will still go into that aspect as matter of procedure,” DGCA sources told rediff.com.

Photo courstey: Daiji world

Tragedy in the skies: Day 1


Construction of second runaway faced legal battles

India biggest airline tragedy in Mangalore is largely being attributed to the newly-opened second runway at the Mangalore international airport.

The construction of the second runway was always embroiled in controversy and there have been several legal battles fought over this.

A series of public interest litigations had been filed in Karnataka courts over the past couple of years in which it was stated that the construction of the second runway should be stopped since the design did not conform to the most basic national and international standards of airport design.

The PILs also highlighted that the airport does not conform to most minimum safeguards for emergency situations — particularly during landings and takeoffs, and that the airport did not have emergency approach roads within a kilometre on all sides of the airport as required.

Vimana Nildana Vistharana Virodhi Samithi (Local Communities Alliance Against Airport Expansion), Bajpe and the Environment Support Group had repeatedly highlighted the high-risk expansion of the Mangalore international airport during the late 1990s.

The expansion was proposed to enable flight movements of wide-bodied aircraft, such as the Airbus A-320.

Authorities were repeatedly informed that the proposal did not at all conform to runway design standards laid down by the Director General of Civil Aviation, National Building Code of India and Ministry of Civil Aviation. Further, considering that the airport was proposed for international flights, a case was also made that the second runway did not conform to International Civil Aviation Organisation standards due to terrain limitations.

The NGOs say that no one in authority cared to listen to their pleas. This even when they demonstrated through a variety of representations that that the site chosen for expansion at Bajpe was surrounded by valleys on three sides of the runway and did not provide for emergency landing areas as required.

When their pleas were not heard, they moved the Karnataka high court in a PIL in 1997 (Arthur Pereira and others vs Union of India and others., WP No. 37681/1997).

The Airports Authority of India filed an affidavit in court dismissing all concerns and stated this, amongst other things:

“It is submitted that as regards the apprehensions of the petitioner that the length and width of the runway is insufficient for a plane making an emergency landing, the same is without any basis. It is submitted that all the requirements as per the ICAO recommendation will be met and that there has been no infringement of any of the recommendation and limitation therein.”

On the basis of this affidavit, the high court dismissed the PIL ordering as follows:

“It is stated that the fear of the petitioners that the runway is insufficient for any emergency landing is without basis since before the project is to proceed, the authorities will be meeting the recommendations of the ICAO. It is also stated that there is no basis for the allegations made by the petitioners to the effect that the various safety measures have not been followed. That on the other hand they will be getting all the relevant materials described by the petitioners which will be followed in letter and spirit without which the airport would not have been conceived in the first place. Thus it can be seen that the expansion of Bajpe airport project is at the initial stage and the second respondent has in their objections mentioned above unequivocally stated that all the safety measures etc, stated by the petitioners in their writ petition will be followed during the progress of the project and nothing can be said before the lands are handed over to the second respondent.

“Considering these facts, we are of the view that the petitioners have rushed to this court before commencement of the project itself and the writ petition is premature. It is not, therefore, necessary to consider the various grounds taken by the petitioners in the writ petition to allege that the respondents have been proceeding with the project in a casual manner. There is nothing to doubt about the statement made by the second respondent in their objection statement and we are sure that the respondents will be taking all necessary measures under the different enactments etc before proceeding with the project in question.”

Even though alternative sites existed, the authorities proceeded to expand the airport yielding to pressures from business, real estate and hotel lobbies, say activists against the project. They allege that authorities overlooked alternative sites even near Bajpe to expand the airport that conformed with most safety norms, since it would have affected large landholders and influential people.

AAI did not even have a proper feasibility study, and claimed that such critical information detail would only be prepared after the land was acquired, the activists alleged.

The NGOs then appealed to the ICAO to intervene. The ICAO did not respond and so they returned to the high court with a fresh PIL in 2002. In this exhaustively-researched PIL many significant concerns were raised and a case was made that the second runway could not conform to ICAO norms for the following reasons:

“Minimum Area for Stop-way: ICAO norms prescribes standards for providing the minimum area for a stop way and/or a clear way in the event an aircraft undershoots or over-runs the runway. For instance, if an aircraft has initiated take off, and a technical flaw requires emergency stop, the standard prescribes the minimum area that should be kept free to enable such a stop. In the instant case, the runway distance itself is about 2,400 metres, and even if the area left is most cautiously utilised, what is left is only about 300 metres on each end of the runway. By the prescribed standard, this is far below the required distance needed for an emergency stop way.

“Therefore, the chances of an aircraft that has achieved the decision speed forcing an emergency stop are critically minimised, and the inevitable consequence could be that the plane crash down the hillsides from a height of 80-100 metres on either side of the proposed runway.”

The high court dismissed this PIL on May 27, 2002 (WP 20905/2002) stating the following:

“No doubt, in an appropriate case, this court can issue directions, if there is gross violation of fundamental rights or if the issue touches the conscience of this court. The construction of second runway and terminal tower at Mangalore Airport will otherwise be in the interest of public. Learned counsel has not been able to show how the construction will be against the public interest.

“On consideration and in the facts of the given case no direction as prayed for can be issued in this PIL. The authorities concerned have to complete all formalities as per law before commencement of the project. Accordingly, this writ petition is dismissed. However, it is made clear that dismissal of this petition will not preclude the concerned Authorities to take all necessary precaution and to complete the formalities as per law before proceeding with the project in question.”

In a desperate effort to stop the airport from so expanding, they went on appeal to the Supreme Court. Dismissing the appeal, the apex court ruled on February 7, 2003 in Environment Support Group and others vs Union of India and others. [SLP(C) 1172 OF 2003] as follows:

“We see no reason to interfere with the impugned order. Accordingly, the special leave petition is dismissed. We, however, clarify that in constructing the airport, the government shall comply with all applicable laws and also with environmental norms.”

The second runway construction began in 2004 and was commissioned in May 2006. No techno-economic assessment, feasibility study, or even a comprehensive environment impact assessment was ever done for the second runway. Simply put, the runway was built in comprehensive violation of applicable laws, standards and direction of the Supreme Court, alleges Leo Saldanha, coordinator of the ESG.

On March 8, 2004, the NGOs wrote to Dr Naseem Zaidi, chairman and joint secretary, AAI reminding him of the need to comply with the Supreme Court direction. They highlighted that “such action would jeopardise passenger safety, put local communities to risk, needlessly dislocate people by acquiring land on a location that in no way could comply with the said provisions and thereby contributed to gross wastage of public money and resources.”

We did not get any response, Saldanha says.

Moily’s miraculous escape

Did you know that Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily also had a miraculous escape when his plane also veered off the runway in Mangalore and rolled down a cliff?

On August 19, 1981 an Avro aircraft from Bangalore landed at the airport despite not getting clearance from the Air Traffic Control due to poor visibility. The plane veered off the runway (which is on a hill) and rolled down the valley. Fortunately, huge boulders blocked the plane and prevented it from plunging into 300-feet-deep valley. The engine caught fire but no casualties were reported and all the passengers escaped with minor injuries. Moily, who was then Karnataka’s finance minister, managed to escape by jumping out of the aircraft and running up the hill.

The aircraft was not removed from the side of the hill for months and it became a tourist an attraction for the locals who frequented the hill or a road nearby to have a look at the aircraft. It was finally sold as scrap.

Ironically, Moily recalled the incident during the inauguration of the new terminal at Mangalore just last week.

Human errorThe preliminary findings of the Directorate of Civil Aviation points that there was no technical snag on the aircraft and they attribute the crash to a human error. A DGCA team, which is conducting investigations, has found that the crash occurred due to a pilot or human error.

A source in the team told rediff.com that this is only a preliminary finding and the exact picture could be given only once they retrieve the black box. The search for the box is still on and it could take a while for them to recover the same.

The DGCA team is also planning on questioning a man, Mohammad Usman, who was on the flight. Usman was in the flight for over an hour after the crash and he had been rescued in a miraculous fashion. Usman is in a state of shock, but not critical and has been admitted to the Wenlock hospital in Mangalore. Not going into any further details, the DGCA team said that they would need some more time before putting out a final report.

Where is the Black Box?

The Black Box from the crash site at Mangalore is taking exceptionally long to find. Despite rescue teams being at the spot along with fire fighters and police personnel, they have not managed to recover the black box which has crucial last-minute recordings.

Police personnel, part of the rescue team, say that the entire focus since morning was around the recovering of the bodies. “We were specifically told that first priority shall be given to recovering the bodies which we have been doing since morning. We still have three more bodies to recover and the chance of their survival is very grim,” they said.

“Moreover, it is extremely difficult to work around the site. The wreckage is too heavy and the weather conditions very poor. We suspect that the box is under the wreckage. Once the bodies are recovered and the wreckage cleared, the look for the black box would commence,” they said.

How the flight plunged into the valley

The death toll has now officially risen to 159, even as search operations continue in the jungles nearby.

Rediff.com as the confirmed sequence of events that eventually led to the air crash.

According to the notes prepared by the team investigating the air crash, the aircraft was set to land at 6.05 am and the visibility according to the Air Traffic Control was good.

However, the aircraft did not stop and crossed the runway spillover area of 90 metres.

In this process, it ploughed through sandbags and veered off.

The wing of the aircraft then hit a localiser, which functions as a landing aid for pilots, and was ripped off the aircraft’s body.

Due to this, the aircraft plunged 300 metres down the cliff, and exploded after catching fire.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the pilot of the Dubai-Mangalore flight had overshot the runway by 300 metres.

A total 158 people have been killed in the crash. A total of 124 bodies have been identified so far.

It requires a lot of precision to land at the Mangalore airport since it has a table top runway and is located on top of a hill, officials said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation will probe the incident and the real reason behind the crash will be known in a day or two.

Final details of the aircraft

Preliminary investigations into the plane crash at Mangalore have made a couple of notes regarding the last minute details of the aircraft. The toll officially is now 159 person even as search operations in the jungles continue.

The aircraft is all set to land at 6.05 am and the visibility according to the ATC was good.

However the aircraft does not stop and cross the runway spillover area of 90 metres.

During this process it ploughs through sandbags and veers off.

The wing of the aircraft then hits a localizer which performs the function of a landing aid. Due to this the wing falls off and the aircraft plunges 300 metres down the cliff.

The plane explodes after it catches fire.

Update
Pilot had overshot the runway by 300 meters
Preliminary investigations say that the left wing of the plane hit a tree when pilot was trying to re-take off
AI announces Rs 2 lakh for victims families and Rs 50000 for survivors
Search for black box on
11 more bodies identified, all bodies at the Wenlock hospital
Karnataka announces one day mourning and Kerala announces two

M’lore airport’s international status under question

In a set back the civil aviation minister praful patel said that he would re look into the international status for the mangalore airport following todays incident. The minister said at a press conference that the issue would be taken up at the cabinet level and discussed. He said that money is not the issue to develop the airport but certain aspects regarding safety and other factors will have to be discussed before going ahead. This would mean that the airport would have a custom status which would operate international flights with the existing infrastructure. The minister further said that there is a proposal to increase the run way length to 9000 metres cs against the existing 7000 metres. This too would be taken up for consideration he said.

The minister sai all assistance will be given to the famiiy members and added that a probe had been ordered.

Meanwhile rescue operations are almost coming to a close. The police say that they are looking for two more bodies and should be able to find them soon.

Three more survivors found at crash site
The rescue team has recovered three more survivors from the crash site. However, police sources said, their chances of survival appeared to be grim.

Sources said the rescue team found the three passengers breathing as they were in the last stage of the recovery operations.

The police said the operation was likely to be closed in another one hour.

So far, the police has recovered 139 bodies, of which 113 bodies have been identified. None of the crewmembers survived the crash.

Chief Pilot, a British national of Serbian origin, Captain Zlatko Gausica, Co-pilot Ahluwaliva from Bangalore, airhostess Sujatha Survase, aircrew Mohammed Ali and Tejal Kamalkar, are among the six crew members who died in the crash.

The official death toll is now reached 160 and all the bodies have been sent to Wenlock hospital in Mangalore, where relatives have been pouring in.

An official statement from the district administration has suggested that 105 men died in the crash which included 36 women and 19 children.

Sixty passengers were from Kerala, while the remaining were from Karnataka.

Meanwhile, the airport runway has been opened for light aircraft. Regular operations may not commence on the airport for time being, as there have been criticisms that the Bajpe runway is short and must be extended.

Patel orders probe in crash

Patel, civil aviation minister who arrived in Mangalore and also visited the survivors at hospital has ordered a high level probe into the incident. Apart from a central team which would conduct the investigations, a team of the DGCA would also conduct a probe into the incident.

The probe would get a direction once the black box is retrieved. However that would take time since rescue operations are still on. A team of the DGCA from Bangalore and New Delhi will be assisted by a team from Boeing in conducting the probe.

Meanwhile the state of Kerala has announced two days mourning in the state as majority of the passengers who lost their lives in the crash are from that state. Karnataka is yet to make any such announcement. The Chief Minister of Karnataka who had adventourous journey just managed to reach Mangalore along with his Home Minister and the state police chief. His chopper was forced to land in Hassan due to bad weather and he had to take the road route to reach Mangalore.

Meanwhile the Mangalore airport will remain shut and the time as to when it would reopen has not been specified as yet. All flights bound for Mangalore will be diverted to Calicut or Kozhikode according to the Airport Authority of India

Update

Three member DGCA team lands in mangalore. The team is assisted by team from bangalore. Probe to commence shortly Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone Essar

Survivor tales

A pale of gloom has descended on the state of Karnataka following one of the worst plane crashes. As rescue operations go on unabated, there are various stories that are coming out.

Manirekha Poonja and her 17 year old daughter Harshini were on their way to attend a cousins wedding. They had boarded the ill-fated flight last night at Dubai.

Shailesh Rao, who is working in Dubai was in Mangalore just two days back. He had visited Mangalore two days back to meet his ailing mother. On Thursday he returned to Dubai, but the next day he got news of his mother’s death. He boarded the flight back to Mangalore on Friday, but unfortunately for him the plane crashed.

Meanwhile Boeing has announced that it would send a team to assist the investigations into the crash. A team is expected to arrive in a day or two and would be providing technical assistance to the investigating team here.

Rescue operations in Mangalore continued and the team is finding the job very hard. Police said that the bad weather coupled with the fact that the plane crashed in a jungle is making the job harder. Moreover they are unable to identified the bodies since they are charred beyond recognition. Rescue operations had been called off for an hour due to bad weather.

Update
Air India spokesman, K Swaminathan, said the flight IX 812 overshot the runway while landing. He said it is too early to speculate and said that they were awaiting the report.
The speculations are that the crash would have happened due to brake failure, error of judgment on the part of the pilot or tyre burst. The rescue operations were hit for an hour as the drizzle turned into heavy downpour, with parts of the plane having rolled into ravines near the airport. The local airport has been temporarily closed.

Worst crash in Indian aviation history

The deadly plane crash at Mangalore on Saturday, which has left 158 persons dead, is one of the biggest in Indian aviation history. Prior to this, the worst airline crash witnessed in Karnataka was on February 14, 1990, in Bangalore, in which 89 persons were killed. However, there were 50 survivors in that crash.

That ill-fated plane which crashed in Bangalore was an Indian Airlines flight, which was two months old and was coming from Mumbai. At that time, the plane had undershot the runway by around 1000 feet and hit an empty reservoir in a golf course near the old airport in Bangalore.

Another major tragedy that India had witnessed in the skies was the plane crash at Ahmedabad in 1998, in which 133 people were killed. This is an indication that the crash that took place in Mangalore on Saturday is the biggest in Indian aviation history. The aircraft at Ahmedabad was Boeing 737 and the crash was attributed to a pilot error.

Recent crashes across the world:

*Boeing 737 from Indonesia crashes on January 1, 2007 at the Sulawesi islands killing 102 passengers.

*114 killed on Kenya Airways flight after plane crashed at Cameroon on May 5, 2007

*199 persons on Brazilian TAM aircraft killed at Sao Paolo on July 17, 2007

*On September 16, 2007, 123 passengers were killed when a Thai aircraft crashed at Phuket.

*166 passengers aboard Spanair were killed after it crashed at the Madrid airport on August, 2008

*On May 20 2009, 98 persons aboard the Indonesian C130 aircraft were killed after it crashed at the Iswahyudi air base.

*228 persons aboard the Air France airbus killed on June 1 2009 when the aircraft crashed over the Atlantic.

*A Yemen airways carrying 153 persons crashed off the Indian Ocean on June 30, 2009.

*The Caspian airline carrying 153 passengers crashed at the city of Qazvin on July 15, 2009.

*90 passengers were killed when an Ethiponan airline crashed minutes after taking off at the Beirut airport.

*On April 10, 2010, 96 people aboard Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s official Tupolev Tu-154 plane were killed in crash near Smolensk airport in western Russia.

*On May 12, 2010, an Afriqiyah Airways A330-200 Airbus crashed in Libya, killing 103 people.

Mangalore airport toughest for landing

The Mangalore airport is considered to be one of the toughest for pilots thanks to the table-top runway which requires a great amount of precision for pilots to land.

Sources told rediff.com that the pilot of ill-fated aircraft who was a Russian may have missed the runway and hence was trying to abort landing. The aircraft which was scheduled to land at 6.30 am on Saturday morning was unable to do so and hence the pilot tried to re-take off and in the bargain the aircraft hit a pole as a result of which the plane skidded off and fell into a valley. This is what the preliminary report says.

Air Traffic Control officials who also pointed out that there was no SOS from the pilot and add that the plane plunged into a valley after overshooting the runway. The black box is yet to be retrieved and a Director General of Civil Aviation team has arrived in Mangalore to probe the incident.

Table-top: The Mangalore airport is considered to be one of the toughest to land since it is located on top of a hill and the runway landing approaches extreme edges on the sides of the hill and hence it is called table-top. The edges of the hill drop into the valley from a height of 300 feet with a short distance of 500 metres on the east side of the runway and 83 metres to 25 metres on the western side. A big disadvantage here is that the runway is not level and the height varies between 90 metres to 83 metres from eastern to western side.

The Mangalore International Airport formerly known as the Bajpe airport was inaugurated in the year 1951. Situated at a distance of 20 kilometres from the city, this airport handles 700 flights at an average every year.

International operations at this airport commenced in the year 2006 and the Air-India Express was the first to commence operations here.

Reasons for crash

Initial reports that are coming in suggest that the left wing of the plane hit a pole and this is the cause for the crash. D B Sadananda Gowda, member of Parliament who is at the spot told rediff.com that the information that he has been getting from the officials suggested that the pilot was unable to land the plane and hence he tried to re-take off and while trying to do so, the left wing hit a pole as a result of which the plane burst into flames.

Further officials also said that it requires a lot of precision to land at the Mangalore airport since it has a table top runway and is located on top of a hill.

The DGCA is all set to probe the incident and in a day or two the real reason for the crash will be made known. Earlier it was said that there was poor visibility and this may have led to the crash. However ATC officials say that the visibility was of 6 kilometre and this is good for landing. Moreover the ATC officials also said that there was no communication and hence they did not suspect any malfunction to the aircraft.

AI flight crashed 5 minutes before landing

It was a matter of five minutes before the aircraft would have landed. Eye witnesses who witnessed the crash said that they heard a loud sound at around 6.30 AM.

The plane was flying low and just five minutes before the landing it overshot the run way and burst into flames. In all there were 137 adult passengers on the flight, 23 children and 6 crew members. Although Indian Airlines has not issued an official statement on the details of the passengers, it is said that all the passengers were from Mangalore, Kasargod and Udupi district.

The Home Minister had said that 6 persons had been rescued. However the death toll raised by one more as a 11 year old girl who was being treated in hospital died. Another person Farooq who managed to jump out of the plane is out of danger and is being treated at hospital. The condition of three more in hospital is said to be critical. A 23 year old lady Sabina is out of danger. An intern with a hospital in Mangalore, this lady was found hanging on a tree after the crash.

Rescue who managed to put out the fire on the aircraft. The bodies that are being retrieved are all charred beyond recognition. Scores of people have surrounded the area including the relatives of those who were on the aircraft.

The survivors are being treated at the AJ, SCS, Wenlock and KMC hospitals

The Crash
A major tragedy struck at Mangalore when an Air India Express Flight from Dubai crashed when it was about to land. Home Minister V S Acharya said that when he last got information 150 persons were feared dead in the crash. In all there were 169 passengers on board and when reports last came in, there were 6 persons who had been rescued.

The plane which was coming in to Mangalore from Dubai crashed at the Bajpe airport in Mangalore at around 6.30 AM. Although there was no message from the pilot before the plane crashed, the reason that is being pointed out is poor visibility. Due to this the plane overshot the runway and the aircraft engulfed in flames and fell into a nearby valley.

Several rescue teams have been pressed into service and are undertaking opereations in full swing. However they were finding hard to conduct operations due to the rains and poor weather.

Photograph courtesy: Daiji World

Rent a riot: Muthalik exposed!

The Sri Ram Sene which has been in the news for all the wrong reasons off late was exposed following a sting operation conducted by the television channel Headlines Today and Tehelka.
Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, who shot to the limelight following the infamous assault on girls at a pub in Mangalore, was caught on camera demanding money from an undercover reporter who posed as an artist. After allegedly accepting a token contribution of Rs 10,000 for his contribution to the Hindutva cause, the reporter discussed a proposal with Muthalik, wherein Muthalik would arrange for a mob to attack the reporter’s painting exhibhition.
The reporter told Muthalik that he was a painter who aspired to be as famous as M F Hussain.The investigation, which lasted six weeks, also exposed how Muthalik and his aides were willing to incite a riot for a price. As per the proposal discussed first with Muthalik who in turn put the reporter in touch with his aides, the Sene would help vandalise the ‘artist’s’ exhibition, at a sensitive locality, dominated by Muslims.
Excerpts of Muthalik’s conversation with the reporter:
Reporter: Main chahta hun sir mujhe popularity mile or popularity milegi to mera business bhi badh jayega..agar aap kahen to main ..aap mujhe ek dayera bata de ..ki itna kharcha aa jayega ..itne ladke honge ..itna advo..matlab vakilon ka..hum log to complaint hi nahin karenge ..kyunki wo to hamari understanding hai…to sir lekin ye hai ki aap mujhe jo batayenge main advance aapke yahan chod kar ke jaunga uske baad aapko kahunga ki ye sir pura aa gaya hai aub sir kaam kar do (I want to gain popularity, so that my business does well, If you could tell me how much? That there will be so many men so many lawyers We won’t complain Because of our understanding. But what you term as the advance will be paid to you fully and only then will I tell you to go ahead and do the job)
Muthalik’s response, “Mangalore main kar sakte hain.( It can be done in Mangalore.)”Muthalik then said that to fix a price for such an operation, he needed to contact Prasad Attavar and Vasanth Bhavani — the head of the Sene’s unit.The reporter then managed to get access to Attavar, who is currently in jail. The reporter met Attavar twice in Mangalore jail and once at the high security jail in Bellary.
Prasad Attavar’s conversation with the reporter: Reporter: 15 lakh dega hum aapko ( I will give you 15 lakhs)Prasad: Haan? (huh!)
Reporter: 15 lakh dega (Will give 15 lakhs)
Prasad: Nahin wo main calculate karke kal main aapko batata hun kitna paisa chahiye (I will calculate the amount and tell you by tomorrow)
Reporter: Ladka kitna hoga? ( how many men will you have)
Prasad: Pachas (50)
Reporter: 50 ladka hoga jo tod fod danga type karega? (50 men who will indulge in a riot?)Prasad: Haan bilkul wo ye sub kiya na pub ka same aisa hi ( Yes it will be similar to what happened at the Mangalore pub)The next person whom the reporter met was Vasant Bhavani who told them that it would be good if they invited Mumtaz Ali Khan as the chief guest for the event. Khan is a minister in the B S Yeddyurappa government. Vasanth’s conversation with the reporter:
Vasant: Mumtaj Ali ko hi bulayie na ( you could call Mumtaz Ali)
Reporter: Kisko (who?)
Vasanth: Mumtaj Ali Khan Reporter: Ye kaun hain (who is he) Vasanth: Waqf board ka minister hai (The minister for Waqf boards) While discussing the aftermath of the attacks, when the ‘artist’ offered to not file cases against the Sene, Bhavani turned the suggestion down. If cases weren’t filed against the attackers, people would suspect that the attack had been engineered, was Bhavani’s rationale.
Muthalik’s reaction: A visibly upset Pramod Muthalik has threatened to sue all those involved in this operation. “I never took money and only a proper investigation will reveal the truth. I want the voice and the video that is being shown to be scrutinised. I am not guilty and I will take legal action against this operation,” Muthalik said.The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka has not reacted so far to this incident. Sources close to the ministers in the government said that it is too early to comment and it would be unfair to jump to any conclusion without verifying the details. The police department on the other hand made it clear that action can be taken only if a complaint is filed. “We will look into the matter and see what needs to be done,” a senior police official in Bangalore said.

The motive behind Pak’s plea for Kasab custody

Pakistan has reacted cautiously to the death sentence awarded to Ajmal , arrested during the terror siege on Mumbai in November 2008, and has withdrawn its request for the extradition of the terrorist from Faridkot.
Kasab’s fast-track trial and subsequent verdict has had little effect on , as it continues to drag its feet over taking action against the Mumbai terror attacks suspects roaming free in Pakistan.
Chander D Sahay, former chief of the India’s intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing, believes that India took the right step by ignoring Pakistan’s plea for Kasab’s custody. In an interview with rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa, he explains the motive behind such a request by the Pakistan government.
What is your opinion on Pakistan’s attempts to seek the custody of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab?
Pakistan sought the custody of Ajmal Kasab to ostensibly try him in their courts. In my view, Pakistan took such a step to save him from going to the gallows. As in the earlier case (when terror suspect Rashid Rauf, accused of plotting the bombing of British flights, escaped from the custody of Pakistani police in Rawalpindi, while on his way to court. He was later reportedly killed in an American drone strike), Ajmal Kasab too would have escaped from custody and would have been subsequently killed in a drone attack by the United States.
Pakistan made a formal request for Kasab’s extradition through Interpol. Do you think India did the right thing by going ahead with the trial at such a stage?
I have pointed out the UK incident and told you exactly what would have happened (if Kasab had been extradited). Even in legal terms, I would say that our decision to go ahead with the trial despite the extradition request was right.
Kasab was a mere pawn; the masterminds of the 26/11 terror attack are still at large in Pakistan. Do you think India could have handed over Kasab in exchange for (Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder) Hafiz Saeed or the rest of the LeT top brass?
Pakistan will not act on the list of terrorists given to it by the Indian authorities under any circumstance, even if a deal were to be struck between the two countries. Let me remind you that according to the authorities in Pakistan, even (underworld don) Dawood Ibrahim is not traceable in Pakistan.
How will the judgment against Ajmal Kasab affect diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan?
This verdict against Ajmal Kasab would have no implications at all on Indo-Pak ties.

Do you think the 26/11 trial can be complete without India getting the chance to try alleged mastermind Hafiz Saeed?
The trial against him has already taken place in-absentia and he has been found guilty. This is a perfectly legal procedure. India did the right thing.
Do you think India should have waited to get access to (LeT operative) David Headley and then pronounced the verdict in the Mumbai terror attack case?
That was not necessary at all. He can be tried separately. The trial against David Headley can be conducted as when the investigating agencies file an additional or supplementary charge-sheet.

Kasab mercy plea: Ball in President’s court

Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist Ajmal Kasab , who was awarded the death punishment for his role in the November 26, 2008 Mumbai carnage, is sure to utilise all the appeal provisions that he has before him.
The ultimate appeal lies with the President of . However, at present, the President has 50 mercy petitions pending in her office. The normal practice is to take up these cases in the order in which it reached the President’s office. The question now is whether Kasab will wait have to wait till the other mercy petitions are disposed off by the President.
Legal experts told rediff.com that there is no hard and fast rule that mercy petitions should be disposed off in order. The President can take a call and take up the matter out of turn. The President must be satisfied that there is an extraordinary circumstance concerning this case and hence it must be taken out of turn. The President can also take into consideration the public sentiment involved in the case. Moreover, there is also no first come first serve policy that can be applied in so far as a mercy petition is concerned.Lawyers say that there is an imminent danger in keeping a mercy petition in cold storage for too long.
Justice Santosh Hegde, former Supreme Court judge, points out that the Supreme Court on several occasions had stated that a mercy petition involves a death sentence and hence cannot be kept in the cold storage for too long. The highest court of the land had observed that a long period on a death row is an everyday suffering and hence it becomes a ground to commute a death sentence to life.
In case a prisoner on a death row feels that his mercy petition is being delayed, he can always approach the Supreme Court and quote this judgment.What the President will considerAlthough the President has the ultimate power to decide on the petition, an advise is always sought from the home ministry. There are certain points that the President would want cleared out before the death sentence is upheld.
Personality of the convict
Whether the convict is suffering from a mental disorder when committing the offence?
Had the court expressed any doubt regarding the evidence when handing out the sentence?
Has any fresh evidence cropped up to substantiate the claim of the appellant?
Was evidence considered before the sentence was handed out?
Was the death sentence given after a long delay in the trial and investigation?
Role of the peopleIt is not as though the public lose a right to say anything if they find that there is inordinate delay in the President deciding on a mercy petition.
They can approach the Supreme Court and file Public Interest Litigation preferably in a large group seeking a direction to the President to expedite the matter.
The Supreme Court can advise or direct the President to take up the matter and dispose it off.

26/11: Kasab to be hanged until death

Kasab 309th on list of convicts awaiting death

Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman in the Mumbai terror attacks, has been sentenced to death — the ultimate punishment available under the Indian Penal Code under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Read more

Looking for hangman

Kasab is likely to be executed at the Yerawada Prison in Pune. A person sentenced to death in Maharashtra is usually executed at the Yerawada prison or the Nagpur prison. But there is no hangman to carry out executions now. But authorities at the Yerawada jail in Pune are not worried about the unavailability of hangmen. “We have faced difficulties in the execution of 11 convicts in the Yerawada jail due to the lack of a hangman. Read more

What will be Kasab’s final days like

The death of the biggest mass murderer on Indian soil is evident with the special court handing out the death sentence to Ajmal Kasab. Even though he is a Pakistani national tried in the Indian court, all norms prescribed will apply to him since he has been convicted under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code. Read more

Rarest of rare case

The usage of the phrase ‘rarest of rare cases’ has a very interesting history attached to it in India. Read more

Symoblic customs before death sentence: Nib-breaking, red robes, fasting

There are many myths about the practice of awarding a death sentence to a convict. It is popularly believed, thanks to mainstream Hindi films, that the judge breaks his nib after pronouncing the sentence.According to legal experts, the nib-breaking custom was followed by judges during the British era. Judges believed that a pen that has been used to take away the life of a human being should never be used again. But the custom was discontinued in post-independence India. Read more

Majeed Memon on Kasab verdict

Pprominent senior advocate, told rediff.com that the verdict is a welcome one. Read more

Unprecedented security in Mumbai

A thick security blanket has been thrown in areas in the vicinity and checkpoints and security bunkers have been set up at all major junctions in the city. Read more

Madhuri’s motive was revenge


The Madhuri Gupta case is slowly unfolding, as investigators begin to make sense of the twisted life of the Indian High Commission staffer in Islamabad who was picked up for allegedly passing on information to Pakistani intelligence agencies.
Sources told rediff.com that during her interrogation, Gupta came as across as a very determined person who had no remorse about her actions.

Gupta told her interrogators that it was revenge that motivated her to do this. She denied having physical relations with her handler, Mudassar Rana (a Pakistani internal intelligence official), but acknowledged the fact that she did leak out ‘not so sensitive’ information.

Although her interrogators are trying to ascertain if she got any remuneration, Gupta is sticking to her stand that her actions were only aimed at seeking revenge against her higher ups.

Gupta’s determination to take revenge did not start when she was posted in Pakistan. Prior to this, she was an assistant director at the Indian Council of World Affairs at Sapru House in New Delhi following which she served at the Indian mission at Kuala Lumpur, Baghdad and also Croatia.

Gupta said she was humiliated in service by her higher ups at every posting. Even after her arrest, she asked, “What has taken you people so long to get to me?”

Investigators say that she had been passing on information by using her contacts in the Reaserach and Analysis Wing. Earlier, she used to meet Rana and share the information directly. However, as time went by Madhuri grew confident and started sending out e-mails directly to the Pakistan establishment. This is what helped Indian agencies to track her down.

Investigations have revealed that Gupta sent out at least six e-mails, which contained information about the India’s Afghan policy, Indo-Pak talks and also details of Intelligence officials posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Arab nations.

She managed to get a lot of loose information from her contacts in the Indian establishment, investigators say.

Initially, the officials did not suspect her when she sought information since it was very general in nature. However, things changed when she started asking for details regarding the military.

Sources say that information regarding Indian policies, which she has leaked out, is not really a worry since it was not specific. But the information that Gupta shared regarding some IB and RAW officials working undercover in other nations needs attention. Indian intelligence say that information may not be of much use to the ISI, since the officials named by Gupta were debriefed and a damage control exercise was undertaken once Indian agencies got wind of her activities.

Spy scam: More than what meets the eye


The information allegedly passed on to Pakistani intelligence agencies by Madhuri Gupta while working in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was not very serious in nature, Intelligence Bureau sources told rediff.com on Tuesday.

Gupta, 53, a promotee officer of the ministry of external affairs, was arrested in New Delhi four days ago on charges of spying for Pakistan.

According to IB sources, Intelligence officials are currently interrogating her to probe her links with a RAW official currently posted in Islamabad.

“She had passed on minor information regarding India’s plans in Afghanistan. She was a second secretary in the Media and Information Cell in the Indian embassy in Islamabad. It is impossible to get information on sensitive matters in her position,” said an IB official.

He added that the RAW official under scrutiny, who might have been working with her in passing on information to Pakistan, could have leaked crucial information.

But IB officials are confident that no major information could have been leaked by Gupta as she had been put under the scanner several months ago. “We had managed to cut off her sources and were able to prevent a major information leak,” said the official.

During interrogation, Madhuri told IB officials that she had agreed to spy for Pakistan’s intelligence agencies as she was dissatisfied with her salary.

Gupta told her interrogators that when the Inter Services Intelligence had offered her a large amount of money to pass on information, she had readily agreed. She had reportedly been working for the Pakistan spy agency for nearly a year.

Intelligence officials are interrogating Gupta to find out if another Indian was involved in the spying operation.

IB officials are trying to ascertain the role played by the RAW official in the whole affair.

“We need to find out if he had passed on any information. He could have discussed certain pieces of information to her casually, without being aware of Gupta’s plan. But he did abuse his position by discussing confidential information with a person who had no access to such information. We don’t have concrete proof of his involvement but we are investigating the matter,” said an IB source.

The IB sources also informed that they are probing the role of a man called Rana, who is believed to be Gupta’s handler in Pakistan.

They suspect that she was involved in a romantic relationship with him, and he could have been the man who got her in touch with the ISI.