Plane barely 30 months old, pilots highly experienced: Air India

Mumbai, May 22 (Calcutta Tube) The ill-fated Boeing 737-800 aircraft that crashed at Mangalore airport Saturday morning was barely two-and-a-half years old and was ‘airworthy’, Air India officials said.

The state-of-the-art aircraft had been inducted into the AI fleet on Jan 15, 2008 and had been flying on various domestic and international sectors, the officials said.

Even the commander of the aircraft, Capt. Z. Glusica, a British national of Serbian origin, was a highly experienced pilot who had logged over 10,200 flying hours.

He was assisted on the Dubai-Mangalore trip by the first officer, Capt. H.S. Ahluwalia, who had over 3,600 hours of flying to his credit.

AI officials also said that both Glusica and Ahluwalia were extremely familiar with the ‘table top’ runway at Mangalore. While Ahluwalia had made 66 landings there, Glusica had 19 landings to his credit there.

Earlier in the day, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said that Mangalore airport is a licensed airport with a runway length of 2,450 metres (around 8,000 feet long), plus a runway end safety area of 90 metres.

The runway was commissioned in 2006 and has been under operation since then, AAI said.

The AAI also said that the Instrument Landing System (ILS) at the Mangalore airport was operating normally.

‘No problem had been reported by the pilots (of the ill-fated aircraft)….the aircraft was following ILS approach for landing on runway 24 and the pilot reported to ATC that it was established on ILS approach at about 10 miles (16 km) from touchdown,’ an AAI statement said.

The aircraft had been cleared for landing when about six km from the touchdown point. The aircraft touched down on runway 24 slightly beyond the point, overshot the runway and plunged into the valley beyond the runway where it caught fire, killing 159 people.

The AAI said that at the time of mishap, the visibility at the Mangalore airport was 6 km and the wind was calm, with no rain at the time of the accident.

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