Mangalore disaster: pilot of crashed plane was no greenhorn

The Air India Express flight IX-812 aircraft that crashed at Mangalore airport early today on arrival from Dubai, killing about 150 people, was piloted by Z Glucia, a Serbian national, with first officer Capt S S Ahluwalia as his co-pilot, according to reports. Neither of them survived the crash.

The airport at Bajpe, about 30 km from Mangalore, has a table-top runway located on a hill top, which is notoriously difficult to land on. It demands pin-point accuracy with no room for error while landing, as the airspace over the city and its vicinity is among the most turbulent in the country. A slight drizzle at 6.30 am, when the disaster occurred, reduced visibility and made matters worse.

Reports say the pilot did not report any malfunction to Airport Traffic Control (ATC), before landing. Glucia was an experienced pilot and familiar with the Mangalore terrain, as he had been on this route several times before. It was only after landing that things went horribly wrong. The plane overshot the runway, went straight into the forested gorge and caught fire.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that there may have been a tyre burst, which made it difficult for the pilot to bring the aircraft to a halt.

Speaking to NDTV, Air Marshal Denzil Keelor said there is a structural flaw at the Mangalore airport because of which there was not enough safe area for the pilot to go into after he lost control of the aircraft. He added that table-top runway did not provide an overshoot area of at least a 1000 yards, in the absence of which any mistake can prove deadly.

The directorate general for civil aviation (DGCA) has rushed a team to investigate matters. The primary concern is to retrieve the black box that will give investigators to reconstruct the last moments in the cockpit.