Supreme Court seeks Centre’s response on plea for safety system at airports

A view of Supreme Court. File Photo.  

Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde visualised the horror and tragedy of an air crash while hearing a petition alleging “deliberate omission” on the part of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to install a fail-safe system to stop an aircraft from overshooting runways at vulnerable airports like Mangaluru and Kozhikode.

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“A crash is something horrible... People are trapped inside the flight. Even the site of a crash is horrible,” Chief Justice Bobde, heading a three-judge Bench, observed on Tuesday.

The court asked Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the government and agreeing with the CJI’s oral observations, to file its response to the petition.

The writ petition filed by Delhi resident Rajen Mehta sought the installation of the Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) in at-risk airports across the country, more importantly in table-top airports in Kozhikode and Mangaluru.

He said the EMAS could have averted the tragic Mangaluru air crash of 2010 and the recent one in Kozhikode. Timely installation could have saved lives and crores of rupees in aircraft loss.

“The existence of EMAS was brought to the knowledge of Air Authority of India (AAI) and the respondents [the DGCA and the Civil Aviation Ministry] in 2008. However, for no plausible reason, it has not been installed till date. During this time, the aviation industry has seen two horrific incidents at Mangalore and Calicut [Kozhikode] causing loss of hundreds of lives, which could have been saved by the timely action of the respondents,” the petition said.

It said EMAS was installed in approximately 125 airports across the world.

Mr. Mehta also sought an inquiry into the delay in installing EMAS despite specific knowledge about the vulnerability of the Mangaluru and Kozhikode airports. He said criminal action should be initiated against officials responsible for the delay.

The 85-year-old petitioner, who had trained with the Swedish Borg Fabrik that manufactures Aircraft Arresting Systems, explained that EMAS system is an arrestor bed of crushable material, like concrete blocks, placed at the end of a runway to stop an aircraft from overshooting.

He said the AAI was formerly “inclined” to install EMAS in Kozhikode and Mangaluru and had invited proposals from his former employer. “In 2008, due to the extreme economic crisis, the Calicut EMAS project was put in abeyance,” the petition said.

“The Court of Inquiry, appointed to investigate into the Mangaluru crash, had specifically recommended that systems like the EMAS should be installed on the runway overshoot areas, especially for table-top airports... Despite the same, no action was taken by the respondents,” it said.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 7:11:58 AM |

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