A special flight carrying evacuees to India who had been stranded abroad because of the coronavirus has skidded off a runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain in the southern state of Kerala, killing at least 17 passengers and injuring 123 more.
Abdul Karim, a senior Kerala state police officer, said the dead included one of the pilots of the Air India Express flight. He said at least 15 of the injured were in critical condition.
The two-year-old Air India Express Boeing 737-800 flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in Kerala, India’s southernmost state, the airline said.
Kozhikode’s 2,850-metre runway is on a flat hilltop with deep gorges on either side ending in a 34-metre drop.
According to Aviation Herald, the 737 came to a stop 50 feet below the runway.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode,” and that he had spoken to Kerala’s top elected official.
Air India Express is a subsidiary of Air India.
The worst air disaster in India was on Nov. 12, 1996, when a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight collided midair with a Kazakhastan Airlines Flight near Charki Dadri in Haryana state, killing all 349 on board the two planes.
AirlineRatings.com recently downgraded Air India Express to a 3-star airline because of numerous overruns one of which was a fatal crash in May 2010.
See Air lndia Express’ ratings here: here
The airline said: “Air India Express flight IX 1344 operated by B737 aircraft from Dubai to Calicut overshot runway at Kozhikode (Calicut) at 1941 hrs tonight. No fire reported at the time of landing. There are 174 passengers, 10 Infants, 2 Pilots and 5 cabin Crew onboard the aircraft. As per the initial reports, rescue operations are ongoing and passengers are being taken to hospital for medical care. We will soon share the update in this regard.”
India’s DGCA reported: “Air India Express AXB1344, B737 Dubai to Calicut, persons on board 191, visibility 2000 meter, heavy rain, after landing Runway 10, continued running to the end of the runway and falling down in the valley and broke down in two pieces.” The DGCA has ordered an investigation.
– With AP.