The pilots of the aircraft that crashed while landing in Kerala's Calicut International Airport on Friday, were alerted about the bad weather in the area. They were also told about the tailwinds, which, however, were "within permissible limits", Arun Kumar, the Director General of Civil Aviation, told NDTV today.
The flight, trying to land on one of a handful of tabletop runways, had touched down too far ahead at full speed and running to the edge of the runway, had toppled over and landed in the valley. There is speculation on whether the bad weather on the day was responsible for the crash.
"The ATC had briefed the pilots about the weather condition... the call has to be taken by the commander to go around or to land," Mr Kumar told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
Asked if the pilot was alerted about that he had landed too far down the air strip, Mr Kumar said the ATC had alerted the aircraft rescue team and the firefighters and they responded immediately, rushing in a vehicle.
"They saw the aircraft go down and then the alarm was sounded and the rescue work started," he said, adding that the process took 10 minutes.
Asked if the Air Traffic Control and the aircraft were in touch after the aircraft had gone down the gorge, he said it would be known after the investigation.
The Air India Express aircraft had landed more than 1 kilometre down the length of the runway in windy and rainy conditions. Sources in the DGCA have confirmed that this was a key factor that they are looking into before reaching a conclusion on whether the remaining length of the runway was sufficient for the aircraft to have stopped safely.
What is clear is that the runway surface was wet, a factor that would have impacted the braking performance of the aircraft after it touched down.
Both pilots and 18 passengers died when the Air India Express Boeing 737-800 aircraft had crashed. 184 passengers - 174 adults and 10 children - were on board at the time of accident. Four children were among those who died.
The flight was operating under the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indians stranded abroad because of the coronavirus lockdown.
A team from Boeing, the manufacturer of the aircraft will be in India next week to help in the investigations and will visit the crash site as well.
"The Flight Data Recorder and the cockpit voice recorder are with the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, which is the designated agency. They are an independent separate agency designated by the Government of India to investigate the aircraft incident. Now they in consultation of the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), USA, and an investigative team from the manufacturer Boeing, will investigate and come to a final conclusion," he told NDTV.
The report on the crash is expected within a few weeks.
The table-top runway at Kozhikode was audited and fully functional, Mr Kumar said. The authorities are now discussing the possibility of installation of a crash barrier system for large aircraft and an attempt is being made to extend the runway, he added.