Raising some concern about aviation safety, glaring similarities have been found between the Air India Express B737-800 aircraft crash at the Calicut Airport on August 7, 2020 and the Air India Express accident at Mangaluru Airport on May 22, 2010.
In its final investigation report, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) which probed the accident said that all the actionable recommendations of the Court of Inquiry (COI) in the Mangaluru incident had been implemented. “However, the investigation team observed that some salient recommendations have not been wholly addressed,” it said.
In the last 10 years, the Air India Express has had two major accidents and a number of non-fatal accidents or serious incidents. Most of the accidents were a result of continuation of unstabilised approach and total disregard to the repeated calls from the First Officer to ‘Go Around’, both being a serious breach of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). This had resulted in long landings in which the aircraft was unable to stop on the runway and terminated in excursion, the report said.
The probable cause of the Calicut Airport accident was the non-adherence to SOP by the Pilot Flying (PF) who had continued an un-stablised approach and landed beyond the touchdown zone, half way down the runway, in spite of ‘go around’ call by Pilot Monitoring (PM). The accident killed 21 people, including both pilots, and seriously injured 75 passengers.
In the case of the Air India Express crash in Mangaluru, the pilot failed to discontinue an ‘un-stabilised approach’ and had persisted with the landing despite three calls from the First Officer to ‘go around’ and a number of warnings from Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning Systems. The crash claimed 158 lives.
Regarding Crew Resource Management (CRM), the AAIB observed that training assertiveness for First Officers has not yielded any qualitative results. The ‘steep cockpit authority gradient’ continues to be managed poorly. Besides, Type Rating Instructor and Designated Examiners were not rostered as observers for CRM monitoring on flights as recommended by the CoI, it said.
Further, the CRM training of Air India Express was weak. Thus senior Captains of the company do not encourage a working climate in the cockpit where a junior pilot is confident enough to raise concerns, question decisions and also offer solutions.
On crew scheduling, it said that adequate crew were not based permanently to undertake unhindered operations at all bases. A case in point was Calicut airport where only one Captain was posted against 26 First Officers, in spite of the maximum number of flights of Air India Express operating out of the base.
Thus the PF was rostered for a scheduled flight for the following day. Any diversion of Air India Express flight would have placed the PF in Flight Duty Time Limitation and he would not have been available to operate the next day’s flight. The PF was aware that there were no additional Captains at that base, other than himself to operate that flight.
Hence, the PF created a misplaced motivation for himself (to be available for next day’s flight) and did not divert even after the wiper of the aircraft was found unserviceable during the first approach and pressed on to land during the second approach (as another ‘missed approach’ would have left him with no option but to divert), the AAIB report said.