Dubai: Survivors and families of victims of the Dubai-Kozhikode Air India Express (AIE) flight crash on August 7, 2020, say the final investigation report on the plane accident that killed 21 and injured several others has come as no surprise.
An inquiry team set up by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) a week after the crash that shook both the UAE and India submitted its final report to the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation on Saturday. The report highlighted several loopholes behind the deadly crash including pilot’s unstabilised approach and non-adherence to SOPs as the probable reasons behind the crash. From systemic failures to the airline’s poor crew resource management, possibility of visual illusions due to low visibility and sub-optimal performance of the PIC’s (Pilot-In-Command) windshield wiper, the AAIB has mentioned various other causes that have contributed to the crash. Both the pilots were killed in the crash after the Vande Bharat repatriation flight carrying Indians stranded in the UAE due to COVID-19 overshot and skidded off the tabletop runway at Calicut International Airport in Kerala in heavy rain, and the fuselage broke into two while nosediving into a ravine.
“There is nothing new in the investigation report,” a Dubai-based software engineer who was injured in the crash told Gulf News over the phone from her house in Kerala.
“We knew there was a grave mistake on the part of the pilot. The landing was terrible. Touching down was with heavy force,” she recollected.
“There was no announcement about the flight facing any issue. There was no panic situation initially. When the flight’s speed increased after touching down, we understood something is wrong. When it lost control, people started screaming. But the crash occurred within seconds.”
The female passenger, who was flying with her young daughter, said survivors had questioned the decision to land in Kozhikode airport soon after the tragedy.
“Why didn’t they choose another nearby airport for landing during the heavy rains? Even if the runway was clear, they should have opted not to land amidst that heavy downpour,” she said.
While she has no idea how far the latest report would affect the claim for compensation to the injured and the families of the victims, she said the crash has left a lasting impact on them.
“Most of the seriously injured passengers like me are still struggling to lead a normal life. I don’t know when I can start working again. We panic when we go in speeding vehicles even on the road. Those memories are still haunting us,” she added.
Dubai resident Murthasa Fasal, whose only child, two-year-old Aysha Dua, was killed and wife Sumayya Thasneem was injured in the crash, said he believed the finding of the pilot’s error was correct. “That is correct. But the report is some 257 pages. We are still studying to understand it in depth. So, I can’t say any further comment,” he said.
Fasal’s is one of the families of the 18 deceased passengers who have engaged a law firm in the UAE, along with 25 survivors, seeking a higher compensation since they feel the compensation offered is far less than what they deserve.
However, Dr Sajjad Hussain, who lost his sister Sahira Banu, 29 and ten-month-old son Azam Muhammed—the youngest victim, said the probe report was expected to add more weight to the victims’ families’ claim for higher compensation from the airline.
“Now that the report is saying that it was a fault of the pilot, who is an employee of the Air India Express, I feel this will give more weight to our claim for compensation holding the airline responsible for the crash. The report has also not ruled out the systemic failures and poor crew management playing a role in this. All these will force the airline to implement the provisions of the Montreal Convention.”
Dubai resident Abdul Rasheed, whose wife Thajina was among the most seriously injured, said he was not sure how the report would affect the claims of the families for compensation from Boeing.
The families of 18 deceased passengers had also engaged a law firm in the United States to fight for compensation from the aircraft manufacturer as well.
Abdul Rasheed said the families of the injured were also concerned about the airline stopping financial support for treatment since last month.
“My wife’s treatment is still going on. The airline stopped making payments for the treatment from August 10. We didn’t expect it,” he said.
O.K. Mansoor Ali, chief coordinator of Malabar Development Forum, which has been supporting the survivors and the families of the deceased in their fight for higher compensations, said the probe report was welcome even though it was much delayed.
“Finally, the investigation has found that the pilot and the airline were responsible for the crash. Since it is a human error from its employees, the airline has to take up the responsibility and take initiatives for the future of the passengers and their compensation claims.”
“It doesn’t blame the table top runway for the crash. There have been so many attempts to block the arrival of the wide-body aircraft at this airport serving hundreds of thousands of passengers from the Malabar. I hope those aircraft will be given a green signal soon,” he added.
Five-member probe committee
Headed by Capt. S.S. Chahar, a former designated examiner on Boeing 737NG, other members of the committee are Ved Prakash (operations expert), Mukul Bhardwaj (senior aircraft maintenance engineer for Boeing 737), Y.S. Dahiya (aviation medicine expert) and Jasbir Singh Larhga (deputy director of AAIB), according to Indian media.