CHENNAI: Bad weather could not have been the reason for diversion of the Kingfisher aircraft from Trichy before it skidded along the runway at Chennai airport in the early hours on Saturday, aeronautical meteorological data shows. The captain and the copilot have been derostered.
The pilot had mentioned bad weather as the reason for returning to Chennai, but did not inform the air traffic control about a nose tire burst, which is suspected to have happened while trying to land at Trichy. The weather status registered on Friday night with the aeronautical weather systems show that the visibility of the runway was 3,000 meters and the thunderstorm clouds were above 2,500 feet, higher than the actual altitude of the aircraft at 11.40 pm, proving the claim of Kingfisher pilot of a bad weather condition was false. A Kingfisher spokesperson refused to elaborate on the theory of weather conditions, saying it was one of the aspects the inquiry is expected to go into. "As a matter of normal procedure, the pilots in question have been desrostered for purposes of the internal inquiry," said Kingfisher vice-president Prakash Mirupuri.
Thirteen passengers and four crew of Kingfisher's IT 4343 had escaped unhurt after the aircraft landed at Chennai airport with a burst nose wheel tire and skidded along the runway. Sources in the aeronautical meteorological department said the visibility of the runway was clear from up to 3km (3,000 meters) at the time of incident. On an Instrument Landing System (ILS), landing could easily be done with a visibility of 800 meters.
"There was a formation of thunderclouds and rain at the time, but only above the height of 2,500 feet. The northerly wind condition was also normal, at six nautical miles, which is not at all a problem for aircraft landing," said a source. Captain A Ranganathan, a navigation expert, said the pilot's claim of weather condition was false and he failed to alert the Trichy airport about the hard landing.
"The hard landing must have been a result of pilot's wrong calculation, resulting in tire burst. An aircraft should undergo advanced checking after every hard landing as there are possibilities of major structural damages to the plane. Even if he had to take off immediately after a hard landing, he should have landed back in Trichy instead of flying all the way to Chennai," he said. Officers of the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) conducted an inquiry at Trichy airport on Sunday. "We have taken pictures of marks and damages along 5.4 meters on the runway.
We have also collected information on wind and visibility at the time of the incident. The pilot concerned has been suspended for the time being," said a senior DGCA officer. VKrishnan, senior air navigation advisor to the DGCA, said blaming it on the weather might be an attempt to cover up. "It was a disaster averted. The decision to fly back after a hard landing was dangerous," he said.