Aviation News

August 29, 2011

Gulf Air Jet Skids Off Wet Runway in India

Several people were injured on early Monday morning when an Airbus A320 belonging to Gulf Air skidded off the runway at an airport in southwest India, the airline said. Heavy rainfall is believed to have caused the incident.

Gulf Air Airbus A320 A9C-AI at Bahrain

A similar Gulf Air Airbus A320 (A9C-AI) at Bahrain. (Photo by Frans Zwart, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The incident happened at around 1:45 am local time when Gulf Air flight 270 was attempting to land at Cochin International Airport, which is located about 25 kilometers (16 miles) north of the major port city of Kochi. The plane was carrying 143 people, including one infant and six crew members.

Gulf Air spokeswoman Katherine Kaczynska said in a statement that the aircraft skidded off the runway during heavy rainfall. “The emergency chute was deployed and all passengers were evacuated and transferred to the airport terminal immediately by shuttle bus,” she said.

Several people sustained injuries during the evacuation of the aircraft, including two passengers who were treated for minor injuries in the terminal building. A third passenger, an Indian national, was transported to Little Flower Hospital. “His condition is not critical,” she said.

Gulf Air said the Airbus 320, which suffered a nose gear collapse during the skid, was only 1.5 year old and had an up-to-date service history. “Rainy weather conditions are suspected to be the cause of this incident, however the aircraft was approved for landing and the cause will not be able to be confirmed until a full investigation has been completed,” Kaczynska said.

In August 2000, a total of 143 people were killed when Gulf Air flight 072 crashed into the Persian Gulf on approach to Bahrain International Airport after a flight from Cairo. And in September 1982, 112 people were killed when a bomb exploded aboard Gulf Air flight 771, causing the Boeing 737-200 to crash in the desert near Mina Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates.

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  • Anonymous

    It is interesting to note that a local
    newspaper in Bahrain has
    already hailed the flying crew of the Gulf Air A320 as heroes for averting what
    might have been a major disaster at Kochi!

    Since the aircraft skidded off the runway
    perilously stopping short of a wall at the end of the runway, the statement
    that might have been more appropriate at this juncture would be “brave pilots
    steer aircraft off the runway to avoid crashing into a wall thus
    avoiding a major disaster”.

    Landing an aircraft in rain, strong
    sidewinds, hail, snow and thunderstorms within stipulated meteorological limits
    is something that is routine in training procedures adopted in crew training
    all around the world. Hundreds of flights takeoff and land in similar
    conditions on a daily basis. Unless conditions are deemed unsuitable for
    landing and is communicated to the crew by the control tower, the flights
    continue to come in for landings. No such directives were issued at Kochi and it appears from available technical sources at Kochi (as reported by the
    media) that the crew confirmed their decision to come in for an ILS landing at
    the prescribed decision height in clear visibility. It is hence rather
    controversial that the crew has blamed heavy rain and poor visibility as the
    cause for the mishap.

    Now there are a couple of issues that need
    to be looked into. Continuing an ILS descent will automatically bring the
    aircraft to the correct touchdown point on the runway based on the glideslope.
    That said, the aircraft would have touched down at the designated end of the
    runway with more than adequate spare runway left to bring the aircraft to a
    complete halt by prompt deployment of spoilers, reverse thrust and application
    of brakes. The only factor that would have to be tackled would be to overcome a
    strong side or tail wind by judicious use of rudder. Now all of this is routine
    in the flight manual and training operations in all types of aircrafts. Modern
    airliners are not expected to either aquaplane or veer off runways unless they
    come in to land without following the designated parameters in the checklist or
    if the crew decide to brave it regardless of stipulated meteorological
    directives against flying conditions.

    No aircraft should overshoot or veer off
    the runway on weather conditions that are within acceptable limits and in
    capable hands.

    Frankly, I do not see any evidence at this
    juncture of any act of heroic proportions on the part of the flying crew. The
    fact of the matter is that the crew failed to control the aircraft on the
    ground in weather conditions that were not evidently unsuitable for landing. I
    am optimistic that the final report filed in by the relevant investigational
    bodies will in due course of time unfold the real story. Till then it would be
    wise to keep the adulatory fanfare on hold.