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AI Express flight overshot runway in rainy conditions, split into 2: Puri

New Delhi

An Air India Express flight from Dubai with 190 people onboard overshot the runway at Kozhikode airport on Friday in rainy conditions and went down 35 feet into a slope before breaking up into two pieces, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said. He said 18 people lost their lives in the accident.

The Air India Express Limited said in a statement, “Unfortunately, the pilots have passed away and we are in touch with their families in their grief.” Expressing deep “anguish and distress”, Puri said relief teams from Air India and Airports Authority of India (AAI) are being immediately dispatched from Delhi and Mumbai.

“The Air India Express flight number AXB-1344 on its way from Dubai to Kozhikode with 191 persons on board, overshot the runway in rainy conditions & went down 35 ft. into a slope before breaking up into two pieces,” he said. In a tweet later, he said. “As per the flight manifest there were 190 people on flight AXB-1344 including 174 adult passengers,10 infants, 4 cabin crew & 2 pilots. Unfortunately, 16 people have lost their lives. I offer my heartfelt condolences to their next of kin & pray for speedy recovery of the injured.”

He said a formal enquiry will be conducted by AAIB (Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau). In another tweet at 12.01 am, he said the rescue operations were complete.

“Two investigation teams of professionals from @airindiain @AAI_Official & AAIB will leave for Kozhikode at 02.00 hrs & 05.00 hrs. Everyone has now been rescued from the aircraft. Rescue operations are now complete. Injured being treated at various city hospitals,” he said. Before Puri, his ministry said in a statement that there were a total 190 persons onboard the aircraft — 174 passengers, 10 infants, 2 pilots and four cabin crew.

The ministry said the B737 aircraft overshot the runway at 7.41 PM on Friday but no fire was reported at the time of landing. The Air India Express is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India and it has only B737 aircraft in its fleet.

It is learnt that pilot-in-command Deepak Sathe died during the accident. He was a former Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force (IAF). He had served at the IAF’s flight testing establishment. The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the flight continued running to the end of the runway amid heavy rain and “fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces”. A spokesperson for the Air India Express said that help centres are being set up at Sharjah and Dubai for affected people.

“We regret that there has been an incident regarding our aircraft VT GHK, operating IX 1344,” the spokesperson added.

The Air India Express statement, issued later, also said, “There were 184 passengers and six crew onboard the flight, but we are currently confirming the details of the passenger manifest for the flight”. Emergency Command Centre was immediately activated after the news of the accident. The Emergency Response Team members and GO teams have already been sent to the accident scene, and will render necessary help to assist the emergency services and local authorities, it said. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, since May 6, special repatriation flights have been operated by Air India and Air India Express under the Vande Bharat Mission to help stranded people reach their destinations. Private carriers have also operated a certain number of flights under this mission.

AI Express says 3 relief flights arranged

Air India Express said on Saturday that three relief flights had been arranged to Kozhikode in Kerala to assist passengers and their family members affected by the plane crash a day ago.

It stated that Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal, and Air India Express Chief Executive Officer K Shyam Sundar had already reached Kozhikode.

The Air India Express flight from Dubai with 190 on board overshot the tabletop runway at Kozhikode airport on Friday night while landing in heavy rains and fell into a valley 35 feet below and broke into two, killing at least 17 people.

Two special relief flights have been arranged from Delhi and one from Mumbai for rendering humanitarian assistance to all the passengers and the family members, the airline, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India, said.

“The Emergency Response Director is coordinating with all the agencies in Calicut (Kozhikode), Mumbai as well as Delhi, Dubai for effective emergency response,” it said in a statement.

“The AAIB (Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau), DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) & Flight Safety Departments have reached for investigating the accident,” it added.

Officials said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri would go to Kozhikode on Saturday.

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