Officials investigate the scene of Saturday's fatal plane crash of Air India Express in Mangalore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Image Credit: AP

New Delhi: A sleepy pilot who approached the runway at the wrong angle and ignored warning signs was to blame for a passenger plane crash in southern India in May that claimed 158 lives, reports said Wednesday.

A Court of Inquiry probe concluded the Air India pilot Zlatko Glusica, from Serbia, was asleep for much of the three-hour flight and was "disorientated" when the plane started to descend, the Hindustan Times reported.

The low-cost Air India Express plane flying from Dubai to the city of Mangalore overshot the runway, plunged into a gorge and burst into flames. Eight people survived the inferno.

The official crash report, which has not been released publicly, was submitted to the civil aviation ministry on Tuesday.

Voice recordings picked up the co-pilot saying: "We don't have runway left," seconds before the disaster.

Pilot snoring

An analysis of the cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder revealed a long silence, heavy breathing and snoring, the report said.

The voice recorder also picked up warnings by co-pilot HS Ahluwalia that there was not enough runway space. Ahluwalia asked Glusica to abort the landing and go around, the report said.

It said the aircraft touched down when it had already crossed 1,500 metres of the 2,400-metre runway.

The panel said that Glusica reacted late and did not follow many standard operating procedures during the landing.

Glusica was suffering from "sleep inertia" after his nap and was "disoriented" when the plane began its descent at Mangalore airport.

The data recorders caught the sound of heavy nasal snoring and breathing, Hindustan Times said.

The co-pilot, H.S. Ahluwalia, is heard repeatedly warning Glusica to abort the landing and try the procedure again. The last words captured by the recorders as the plane crashed were those of one of the pilots saying, "Oh my God."

Glusica, a native of Serbia, had more than 10,200 hours of flying experience, while Ahluwalia had clocked in 3,650 hours.


Migrant workers

Most of the dead were migrant workers returning from the Gulf where many Indians from southern states find low-paid employment as construction workers or domestic staff in cities such as Dubai.


The six-member court was set up to investigate the cause of India's first major air crash since 2000 and its worst aviation disaster since 1996, when two jets collided in mid-air over New Delhi, killing nearly 350 people.