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Ill-Fated Aircraft's Thrust Lever Was In Forward Position

Pilots of the Air India Express that crashed in Mangalore on Saturday morning may have tried to take off after realising that they had landed way beyond the safe touchdown zone, Mumbai Mirror quoting aviation
PTI May 24, 2010 14:04 IST
PTI
Pilots of the Air India Express that crashed in Mangalore on Saturday morning may have tried to take off after realising that they had landed way beyond the safe touchdown zone, Mumbai Mirror quoting aviation sources said.  

Preliminary findings suggests that the plane was at a relatively high speed and flying higher than normal while approaching the runway.

As a consequence, it touched down way past the touchdown zone.  “As a result, the pilot may have tried to take off again, but was unable to do so,” an airport official said. Eventually, the plane overshot the runway and fell into a ravine.  

According to some reports, the plane's thrust lever was found in the forward position, indicating that the pilots were attempting a take off.  “The speed and correct approach path are crucial, especially if the plane is carrying a full load,'' a senior commander explained. The other important factors during landing are wind and runway surface conditions, as it determines the runway length required to bring the plane to a halt.  

If the approach or landing is not correct, pilots opt for a go-around, which is to take off and make another attempt to land. A Boeing 737, like the one that crashed, with maximum landing weight would require approximately 6,000 feet of runway for a landing. “Mangalore airport has a 8,000 feet long runway. The pilots of the crashed plane may not have had sufficient length to bring the plane to a halt if they had touched down late and at high speed,” a senior commander explained.  

Another crucial factor is that the timing of the decision to go for a 'go around'. Although it is possible to take off even after the wheels touch the runway, the procedure is difficult if the plane's reverse thrusters (that apply force in the opposite direction in a bid to bring the plane to a halt) have been activated immediately on landing.  “It is not recommended to opt for go-around if the plane's deceleration procedures have been initiated,'' the senior commander added.  

A possible explanation is that pilots may have attempted a 'smooth landing'. According to ailrine sources, a smooth landing can be executed by reducing the rate of descent. But in the process, the plane might end up hitting the runway much after the touchdown zone limiting the length available to bring it to a halt.  

Pilots said the Air India management is against pilots carrying out hard landing. However, some AI pilots feel that both Capt Zlatko Glusica and co-pilot Capt H S Ahluwalia were well-versed with Mangalore airport.  “No mature captain will attempt a soft landing, and most certainly not in Calicut or Mangalore,” a pilot said.