Even as the speculations are on about the cause for the crash of Air India Express IX-812 near Mangalore, an official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation has pointed out that “failure of pilots to monitor speed” had resulted in crash of Airbus 320 of Indian Airlines (IC-605/VT-EPN) near Bangalore's HAL Airport in 1990. In all, 92 persons on board, including two pilots and two cabin crew, died in that accident.
Capt. S.S. Gopujkar was in command of the flight CI-605 and Capt. C.A. Fernandez was the second pilot operating under his supervision. Like Capt. Z. Glusica (who commanded the IX-812), Capt. Gopujkar too had flying experience of over 10,000 flying hours.
The official, referring to the report of investigation conducted by the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation, pointed out that the aircraft (IC-605/VT-EPN) during approach to HAL airport never went to the speed mode which is the proper mode for landing and one of the Flight Directors remained engaged till the time the aircraft crashed.
“If Capt. Gopujkar would have also disengaged his Flight Director when Capt. Fernandez disengaged his Flight Director 21 seconds prior to the crash, the speed mode would have been activated and engine power would have started building up from that instant to restore the speed and the accident could have possibly been averted,” the official said quoting the investigation report.
The investigation report stated that the crash would not have happened if the pilots had taken any of the following actions:
If the vertical speed of 700 feet as asked for by Capt. Fernandez at about DFRD (Digital Flight Director Recorder) 294 seconds had been selected and aircraft had continued in speed/vertical speed mode.
If both the Flight Directors has been switched off between DFDR seconds 312 and 317.
If taking over manual control of the thrust, that is disconnecting auto-thrust system and manually pushing the thrust levers to TOGA (Take Off-Go Around) position at or before DFDR 320 seconds (prior to 9 seconds to first impact on golf course).
If the go around altitude of 6,000 feet had been selected on flight control unit in accordance with the standard procedure at the time it was asked for by Capt. Fernandez.
The conversation between Capt. Gopujkar and Capt. Fernandez recorded in the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) played a major role in ascertaining the actions prior to the crash during 1990, said the officer while pointing out that CVR data will be crucial to arrive at reason for crash at aircraft as no clear picture is emerging at present.
As per the investigation report, IC-605/VT-EPN first contacted the ground within the boundary of Karnataka Golf Association (situated next to HAL airport) approximately 2,300 ft prior to the beginning of runway.
The aircraft had gone up into the air for a very short duration after which it again contacted the ground on all three gears and then hit an embankment at the boundary of the golf course. The aircraft finally came to rest outside the boundary wall of the HAL airport.
The investigation report further stated that “failure of the pilots to monitor speed during final approach, probably because they diverted their attention to find out the reason for aircraft going into idle/open descent mode rather than realising the gravity of the situation and responding immediately towards proper action.”