Plane skids off runway in India; 17 killed, including pilots

  • The Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. The special evacuation flight bringing people home to India who had been trapped abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off the runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain killing more than a dozen people and injuring dozens more.

    The Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. The special evacuation flight bringing people home to India who had been trapped abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off the runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain killing more than a dozen people and injuring dozens more. Associated Press

  • The Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.

    The Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Associated Press

  • Medical personnel in personal protective wear stand as people injured after an Air India Express flight skidded off a runway while landing at the Kozhikode airport, are treated at the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.

    Medical personnel in personal protective wear stand as people injured after an Air India Express flight skidded off a runway while landing at the Kozhikode airport, are treated at the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Associated Press

  • One of the persons injured after an Air India Express flight skidded off a runway while landing at the Kozhikode airport is brought for treatment to the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.

    One of the persons injured after an Air India Express flight skidded off a runway while landing at the Kozhikode airport is brought for treatment to the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Associated Press

  • A part of the Air India Express flight is seen through a broken wall after it skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.

    A part of the Air India Express flight is seen through a broken wall after it skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Associated Press

  • One of the persons injured after an Air India Express flight skidded off a runway while landing at the Kozhikode airport is brought for treatment to the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.

    One of the persons injured after an Air India Express flight skidded off a runway while landing at the Kozhikode airport is brought for treatment to the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Associated Press

  • The Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. The special evacuation flight bringing people home to India who had been trapped abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off the runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain killing more than a dozen people and injuring dozens more.

    The Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. The special evacuation flight bringing people home to India who had been trapped abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off the runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain killing more than a dozen people and injuring dozens more. Associated Press

  • Medical personnel in personal protective wear stand next to bodies of victims after an Air India Express flight skidded off a runway while landing at the Kozhikode airport iare attended to at the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.

    Medical personnel in personal protective wear stand next to bodies of victims after an Air India Express flight skidded off a runway while landing at the Kozhikode airport iare attended to at the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Associated Press

  • People gather to look at the Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. The special evacuation flight bringing people home to India who had been trapped abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off the runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain killing more than a dozen people and injuring dozens more.

    People gather to look at the Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing at the airport in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. The special evacuation flight bringing people home to India who had been trapped abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off the runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain killing more than a dozen people and injuring dozens more. Associated Press

 
 
Posted8/8/2020 7:00 AM

NEW DELHI -- At least 17 people were killed and 123 injured when a special return flight for Indians stranded abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off a hilltop runway and cracked in two while landing Friday in heavy rain in the southern state of Kerala, police said.

Among the injured, at least 15 were in critical condition, said Abdul Karim, a senior Kerala state police officer. Rescue operations were over, he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The dead included both pilots of the Air India Express flight, the airline said in a statement, adding that the four cabin crew members were safe.

The 2-year-old Boeing 737-800 flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in Kerala, India's southernmost state, the airline said. There were 174 adult passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew on board.

Kozhikode's 2,850-meter (9,350-foot) runway is on a flat hilltop with deep gorges on either side ending in a 34-meter (112-foot) drop.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep S. Puri said in a statement that the flight 'œovershot the runway in rainy conditions and went down' the slope, breaking into two pieces upon impact.

A similar tragedy was narrowly avoided at the same airport a year ago, when an Air India Express flight suffered a tail strike upon landing. None of the 180 passengers of that flight was injured.

An inquiry will be conducted by the ministry's Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau.

The airport's runway end safety area was expanded in 2018 to accommodate wide-body aircraft.

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The runway end safety area meets United Nations international civil aviation requirements, but the U.N. agency recommends a buffer that is 150 meters (492 feet) longer than what exists at Kozhikode airport, according to Harro Ranter, chief executive of the Aviation Safety Network online database.

Dubai-based aviation consultant Mark Martin said that while it was too early to determine the cause of the crash, annual monsoon conditions appeared to be a factor.

'œLow visibility, wet runway, low cloud base, all leading to very poor braking action is what looks like led to where we are at the moment with this crash,' Martin said, calling for the European Aviation Safety Agency and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to assist with the Indian government's investigation.

Kerala state Health Minister KK Shailaja on Saturday asked local residents who joined the rescue effort to go into quarantine as a precautionary measure. The survivors were being tested for the virus, officials said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Air India Express flight was part of the Indian government's special repatriation mission to bring Indian citizens back to the country, officials said. All of the passengers were returning from the Gulf region, authorities said. Regular commercial flights have been halted in India because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was 'œpained 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.

___

Associated Press writers Sheikh Saaliq in New Delhi and Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India, contributed to this report.

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