The Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Sunday suspended the operation of wide-bodied aircraft at the Calicut International Airport, on Sunday, in the wake of the Air India Express (AIE) flight AXB 1344 overshooting the runway in Kerala's Kozhikode on Friday evening.
As per a Times of India report, a Saudi Airbus 330, which was scheduled to fly down at Calicut airport, was diverted to the Kochi airport on Sunday, following the directives of DGCA.
Calicut International Airport, also known as Karipur Airport, is an international airport located in Karipur, Malappuram district of Kerala. This airport which has a table-top runway has been on the regulator's watch list after the 2010 Air India Express Boeing 737 crash in Mangaluru, which claimed the lives of 158 people.
In 2010, a Boeing 737-800 passenger jet operating Air India Express Flight 812 from Dubai to Mangalore crashed on landing at Mangalore airport, which like the Calicut airport, has a table-top runway. The aircraft had caught fire while landing and fell into the valley below. The accident claimed 158 lives and only 8 passengers on-board the ill-fated flight survived.
DGCA suspends wide-bodied flights in Karipur
This new directive of the DGCA to suspend the operation of wide-bodied aircraft could be temporary or even permanent. According to The Hindu, MK Raghavan, a member of Parliament from Kozhikode has said that the decision to suspend wide-bodied flights at the airport cannot be justified. The airport had complied with all the stipulations for the operation of big aircraft.
But this is not for the first time wide-bodied aircraft will stay away from Karipur. The operation of wide-bodied aircraft was suspended at the Calicut airport back in May 2015 after a report by the Court of Inquiry on the Mangaluru crash.
Following the ban, the Airport Authority of India (AAI) had carried out strengthening of the runway and expanding the runway safety area or RESA of the Calicut airport. Subsequently, the DGCA asked the AAI and the airline companies to submit reports on safety assessment and mitigation plans, reports Times of India.
But after an interval of over five years, Air India had resumed wide-bodied flight operations from the Calicut international airport in 2019. A Saudi Arabian Airlines flight from Calicut to Jeddah on 17 February, 2019 was the first airline to get the nod, following which Air India also got the green light to operate wide-bodied flights after conducting the safety assessment in August last year.
So what is a wide-bodied aircraft?
A wide-bodied aircraft, also known as a twin-aisle aircraft, is a jet airliner with a fuselage wide enough to accommodate two passenger aisles with seven or more seats abreast.
The aircraft is almost always used to operate long haul and medium-haul flights but can occasionally be used on shorter flights. DGCA bans wide-bodied aircraft at Kozhikode airport: With big passenger capacity, these planes are used for medium and long hauls
In the typical wide-body economy cabin, passengers are seated seven to 10 abreast, allowing a total capacity of 200 to 850 passengers.
By comparison, a typical narrow-body airliner has a diameter of three to four metres (10 to 13 ft), with a single aisle, and seats between two and six people abreast.
A wide-bodied aircraft's capacity is usually equipped to carry 200 to 850 passengers and typically has two aisles per cabin. This kind of aircraft was originally designed for a combination of efficiency and passenger comfort and to increase the amount of cargo space.
However, airlines quickly gave in to economic factors and reduced the extra passenger space in order to maximise revenue and profits.
Responding to criticism that the Kozhikode air crash occurred as landings were allowed despite several warnings, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri urged his fellow politicians and media to exercise patience, saying that the accident was being probed and the findings will be made public.
In a series of tweets, Puri said that the aircraft involved in the incident at Kozhikode, a B-737-800, was not a wide-bodied aircraft. "As far as wide-body aircraft are concerned, DGCA had carried out a thorough assessment and prescribed comprehensive mitigation measures," he said.
With inputs from agencies