Bajpe, Mangalore, May 22: Eyewitness, survivors, and Air Traffic Controller (ATC) sources say that the Boeing 737, which overshot the runway at Mangalore International Airport and plunged into the valley beyond killing 158 of its passengers and crew, simply went out of the control.
The ATC gave the clearance signal for touchdown at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday when pilot was 4 miles from the runway; and the pilot acknowledged the clearance. This was the last communication between ATC and pilot.
The plane was landing on the Instrument Landing System (ILS), which has two features—the Glide Scope, which enables the pilot to establish his angle of approach, and the Localiser, which aligns the plane to the centre of the runway.
According to ATC sources, the pilot was flying way above the appropriate approach angle, owing to which the plane touched down 2000ft beyond the actual touchdown point on the runway. The pilot now had only 5000ft of runway left to stop the plane.
Explaining the incident further, Kanu Gohain, the former director general of civil aviation, said that the pilot communicated that he was in line with the runway and that he was on the Glide Scope. Since he was landing on the ILS, he should have touched down at the ILS point of 1000ft, which would have left him another 2000 - 5000ft of runway to bring the plane to a stop by applying the thrust reversals and brake systems. The worst that could have happened was that the plane would have shot beyond the runway and stopped at the end of the safety area.
The ATC made the routine request for the plane to back track toward the terminal immediately after touchdown, but received no answer. Survivors say that seconds after touchdown, one of the tyres might have burst. The plane dashed into an ILS antenna, slammed into the boundary wall, and plunged into the valley.
Experts are now waiting for the recovery of the flight data recorder or the Black Box to answer a series of unanswered questions on the tragedy. What was the exact point at which the pilot touched down? How much of the runway was left for him to bring the aircraft to a stop? What was the engine power at the time? What was his speed at touchdown? These questions must be considered to learn exactly why the pilot could not stop the plane.
India seeks US help to probe plane crash at Mangalore
The Indian government has requested the US to send a team of top investigators to assist authorities to investigate the plane crash at Mangalore International Airport.
The US team includes officers from Federal Aviation Authority, Boeing, General Electricals, and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said an NTSB spokesperson. Three members of the US investigative team are from NTSB.
The team is now being rushed to Mangalore, said the spokesperson, adding that India has requested US help several times in the past. He said that the US has been assisting India probe plane crashes for a long time.