This is your captain,
we are landing
at Mangalore…

Since there was a deep connection between the Mangalore crash and
the UAE because of the passengers working and living here, Khaleej Times has attempted to put together data gleaned from experts in aviation who also have landed aircraft at Mangalore and produce answers to questions that are unanswered. This report has been put together to see if some sense can be made of the human factor, which comes into play.

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Published: Thu 27 May 2010, 9:41 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:43 AM

Not often does one access common sense of this genre. This report is based on inputs from these line captains with several landings in Mangalore to their credit. No conclusions are to be made but the content is rivetting

I am a Line Captain and have flow with lots of expats and Indians as commander and co-pilot. I have operated to and landed at Mangalore several times (will have to check my log for an exact figure but at least 10 or more; a few times in rain) which allows me to say a few things.

Issue 1: Mangalore Airport

Comment 1. Mangalore airport usually gives you a DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) arc approach which is not particularly challenging but you can end up high if you’re not on the ball (situational awareness) or the FMGS (Flight Management and guidance System) is not properly programmed (yes I know that’s obvious).

Comment 2. The runway length is sufficient; though not comfortable given the drop at the end of the runway. Hence, one always tends to ensure a touch down at or before the 1000 ft aiming point marker. Going beyond that is cutting things fine.

Comment 3. There is nothing about Mangalore that requires only Captains to be allowed to land there. Other than Air India I am not aware of any other airline with this rule.

Issue 2: Cause of crash

Comment 1. Yes, I would like to wait for the report and not indulge in wild speculation; but I know that the report will take many, many months, perhaps years. In the meantime I would like to learn whatever I can for my own improvement.

Comment 2. To be hot and high or float down the runway in Mangalore is a terrible idea. Every crew member operating out of Mangalore knows that or is told by his compatriots ...hence, I cannot comprehend that this particular crew would deliberately attempt to land half way down the runway...

Comment 3. Lastly, I do not know what the AI Express policy towards go around is... their policy towards hard landings has been stated earlier and I believe it is a short sighted and wrong policy. (A year ago, Air india issued an order which bars hard landings. A circular issued by the airline about a year ago says that landings should not exceed 1.65G. When the undercarriage of a plane touches down on the runway, the sink rate falls. So in the case of a faster sink rate, the impact on touchdown is greater and vice versa. A hard landing typically occurs when the sink rate is high and the aircraft touches down on the runway with a thud instead of rolling in smoothly onto the runway. That is, if this ban was not there, the captain could have opted to go around or increase his sink rate and save precious feet.

Comment 4. The maintenance in Air India (won’t hazard a guess about AI Express!) is questionable.... In my experience the engineers are brilliant at paper work but terrible at the actually fixing any problems.... They don’t follow the most basic of procedures laid down in the MEL or AMM or TSM. And they often ask pilots to defer defect entries into the tech log. Planes do fly with a high degree of unserviceable equipment on the Minimum Equipment List.

Based on the above, I would like to hazard the following:

1. It is probable the approach was unstable (crew could have become high without realising) whether through the microburst phenomenon or through being hot and high because of a faulty reading.

2. It is possible they might have floated (given the AI Express policy on hard landings)...

3. It is probable that a system failure degraded the braking capability/ controllability of the aircraft on touchdown...

4. A combination of the above three coupled with the fact that Mangalore has a steep drop at the end of the runway resulted in the tragedy.

Issue 3: Expat pilots

This issue is sure to be raised and much will be made about their presence in India. Grow up. Over 6 million Indians work in other countries, what’s the deal?

Fact 1. They are in India because there was a severe shortage of pilots in India and the growth of the industry was suffering.

Fact 2. They get paid more than Indians with equivalent experience. This leads to resentment.

Fact 3. Expats come to India because they don’t have jobs that pay them anything similar in their home countries.

Fact 4. If expat pilots had to go though a Class I Indian Medical examination at least 60 per cent would be grounded. This also leads to resentment since they are less fit.

Fact 5. The following incidents in India had expat Captains in command and these can be verified.

1. Air Deccan ATR bounced/hard landing at old Bangalore airport. Aircraft beyond economical repair. (African Capt)

2. Jet Airways ATR at Indore. Runway overrun. Multiple injuries and Aircraft beyond economical repair.(Not sure of nationality but not Indian)

3. Jetlite 737 runway overrun in Mumbai. Runway 27 closed for 2 days (South American)

4. Kingfisher ATR incident at Mumbai in 2009. (Not sure of nationality but not Indian)

Comment 1. The free movement of goods and labour is beneficial to all concerned. (If Indians want to work in the Gulf and the US, then others can want to work in India). So yes, I support expat pilots.

Comment 2. For all those expats who keep cribbing about how terrible India is in general and how unsafe it etc etc... please leave. Nobody is forcing you to fly in India; you are here because the money is good.

Comment 3. As a co-pilot I flew with expats from around the world and I believe I am a better pilot today because of it. I have learnt enormously from them and their experience. The majority of them have huge amounts of experience and they gave me the benefit of it. I can see that difference when I compare notes with my colleagues for different airlines.

Comment 4. However, there are also a set of expats who fly in a manner beyond comprehension. Among them are:

(a) no go around captains; who boast they have never gone around. Scary but true.

(b) do 360 turns on finals below 1500 ft. (specifically banned in India after the Patna crash when Alliance Air flight CD 7412 crashed at the airport Airport killing 60 people)

(c) Some left buckets (captains) never flare. (When you “flare” or “round out”, you pitch the nose up slightly as you close the throttle in order to reduce your speed and rate of descent just prior to touchdown.

The amount of pitch-up required primarily depends upon your airspeed and rate of descent, and it is usually only a few degrees.

The slower the plane becomes, the more you have to pitch up.

It is a smooth process and not hurried unless you misjudge and flare too late. If you flare too quickly or too much, the airplane will “balloon” up in the air and you will find yourself too high without enough airspeed...a perfect recipe for a very hard landing or a stall followed by a crash.) One Expat captain with more than 15000 hrs beat all records for hard landings because he will not flare.

That being said, I have seen plenty of Indian captains do the same.

What I am trying to say is that it is capability not nationality that is important. Certain Indian pilots do resent the expats and certain expats make it a pet hobby to crib about India. Let’s just get over it and get on with our jobs.

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