The Mangalore airport has a “tabletop” runway, which according to an international airline pilot, “creates an optical illusion that requires a very precise approach.”

“As the pilot makes the approach the visual reference changes, which requires the pilot to guard against taking the aircraft either too high or low on the approach”, said the pilot who wished to remain unnamed.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has prescribed “additional training requirements for table top airports such as the one at the Bajpe Airport in Mangalore,” said the pilot. He said runways at airports such as the one at Mangalore – and “to some extent, the airport at Kozhikode” – are situated on what is “like a plateau.”

Asked if automated systems such as fly-by-wire systems do not ensure precise landings and take-offs, the pilot said, “During the last stage of the landing such as the airport in Mangalore, the pilot has to rely more on his interface with the machine, rather than a totally automated machine.”

Asked if the length of the runway could have been a significant risk factor, the pilot said, “A field, if short, does play a role in such an airport because it impairs his ability to handle the aircraft.” Moreover, aircraft landing in weather conditions such as the one prevailing on Saturday morning may require a longer landing distance. “If there was an increase in the tailwind during landing, the pilot would have required a longer distance to land the craft," he said. “The weather does play an important role in airports on the West coast,’ he said.

“Early reports of the crash, which said that rescue efforts were hampered by a heavy downpour suggest that weather conditions were, at the very least, not entirely favourable,’ he said. This, he said, could have brought the “length of the runway” into play as a critical parameter during landing.