Air India Express crash: black box recovered, investigation to begin

Investigators will begin looking at why a Boeing 737 skidded off the runway, killing 18 people in India
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File image.
File image.

Air India Express Flight 1344’s black box has been recovered and authorities are searching for the cockpit voice recorder as investigators begin looking into the circumstances that led to the aircraft crashing on Friday.

The Boeing 737 NG was carrying 190 people when it slid off the runway while trying to land for a second time at Kozhikode Airport in India during heavy rain, killing 18 people, including both pilots, and causing the plane to break in two.

Local weather data shows that there was also a tail wind at the time the aircraft touched down about 900 metres down the 2,850 metre runway. After overrunning the runway the plane fell down a 34 metre hillside.

The plane had travelled from Dubai and most of the passengers were returning home to India after losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, while others were visitors who were stranded.

Scheduled international passengers flights are still banned by India because of Covid-19 until 31 August.

“I offer my heartfelt condolences to their next of kin and pray for speedy recovery of the injured,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet about the victims. The dead included both pilots, Air India Express said.

The Consulate General of India in Dubai said a few of 127 people receiving treatment are in critical condition.

Air India Express said in a statement: “We regret that there has been an incident regarding our aircraft.” Meanwhile, help centres were being set up in Sharjah and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation will investigate the crash, according to Boeing, which will provide technical assistance where needed.

“We are in contact with the Air India team, and have offered to support them in any way possible,” Boeing said in a statement on Saturday.

Kozhikode is a table-top airport, located on a hill with limited space at the end of the runway. Some international airlines had already ceased to operate wide-body aircraft from the airport amid safety concerns.

A Hindu newspaper in 2018 reported that authorities had ignored a proposal to install a system to stop planes from falling off the edge.

An Air India Express aircraft overshot another table-top airport in Mangalore in 2010, killing 158 people.

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