'Radar conked out 2 days before crash'

Airports Authority of India (AAI) Watch Supervisory Officer (WSO) Girish Kamath, who was present at the Air Traffic Control (ATC) office on the ill-fated day said the radar at the airport was not functioning from May 20. “However, procedural controls help pilot to descend an aircraft in the absence of radar services,” he said. As many as 158 people died as the aircraft plunged into a valley off the Mangalore airport on May 22.

ATC Senior Manager Mahesh Pai, who was heading the control at the time of mishap said the aircraft appeared to touch down beyond pre-determined position. On an average, out of 100 landings, one aircraft lands beyond pre-determined position, he added.

Ronald John Vaz, the officer from Indian Meteorological Department said there was good visibility of up to six kms during landing and the runway was dry. However, Gaurav Porwal, the Aircraft Maintenance Engineer of Air India Charters Limited (AICL) said it started drizzling 30 seconds before the landing of the aircraft.

Air India Assistant Manager (Fire) Dhananjay Shanbagh said the fire tenders took four minutes to reach the crash site whereas a person can survive for only 138 seconds in such cases. He said that but for the thick vegetation, the aircraft would not have stopped where it stopped. He blamed the poor condition of approach road for delay in reaching the site. AAI Senior Assistant (Fire) M V Mathew, the first person to reach the site with his fire brigade Agni Shathru said he could see only a huge fireball at the crash site. The inquiry is headed by Air Marshal (Retd) B N Gokhale.

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