The Air India Boeing 737 plane crash on Friday killed at least 18 people including the pilot and co-pilot. The Air India Express plane, which was bringing Indians stranded in Dubai due to coronavirus, overshot the "table-top" runway after touch-down at the Calicut International Airport due to heavy rain that has batter Kozhikode and other surrounding districts.
What makes a table-top runway dangerous, is the fact that it is located on top of a hill or an elevated plateau with deep gorges on both sides making it a treacherous landing strip for the pilots with no margin for error. According to experts, landing on table-top runways are even more treacherous as it creates an optical illusion for pilots as the strip seem to stretch on, even at the end.
The Air India Flight 1344 skidded off the tabletop runway, falling into the gorge before splitting into two after nose-diving into the ground. The pilot of the aircraft had attempted to land the plane the first time but had taken-off and then had tried to perform a second landing in which the crash took place.
The Air India Express Boeing 737-800 crash on Friday was one of the deadliest in India in a decade. There were a total of 190 passengers including 10 infants in the plane and according to Indian television news channel - News18, the pilot was able to turn off the engine in time thereby prevented the fuel tank of the aircraft from going up in flames, which in turn saved a lot of lives.
In 2010, India had witnessed a horrible crash in Mangalore airport that also has a table-top runway. In one of the deadliest plane crash in India, Air India's low budget carrier IX 812 Dubai-Mangalore flight overshot the tabletop runway and plunged into the gorge before going up in flames. There were only eight survivors, while 158 passengers including the two pilots and four crew members were burned to death.
Tabletop airports in the world
Besides, the airports at Kozhikode and Mangaluru, in India itself there are four more table-top airports - the Lengpui airport in Mizoram, Pakyong airport in Sikkim, and Simla and Kullu in Himachal Pradesh are built on tabletops.
Other tabletop airports outside India include Paro in Bhutan and Kathmandu in Nepal. According to a report by Bloomberg, the plane crash at the runway at Kozhikode could have been avoided had India installed a ground arrestor system, similar to those maintained at Air Force bases, to stop a plane from plunging into the gorge at tabletop airports.
The report observed that "most U.S. airports that are built on top of a hill" have arresting beds that halt a plane from skidding off the edge if it doesn't stop by the end of the runway.