The report into the crash of an Air India Express aircraft in Kerala last August has indicated the possibility of a medical factor regarding the pilot in charge, which could have had a role in the aviation disaster.
Twenty-one people, including both pilots, were killed after the Air India Express Boeing 737 from Dubai carrying 190 people skidded off a runway in heavy rain and broke into pieces at Kozhikode airport on August 8 last year.
The aviation accident report that came over a year after the crash has, among other factors like landing beyond the safe touchdown zone despite a go-around call, mentioned that an anti-diabetic drug that the pilot in charge or PIC had been taking may have “caused subtle cognitive deficits”.
“The PIC was taking multiple un-prescribed anti-diabetic drugs that could have probably caused subtle cognitive deficits due to mild hypoglycaemia,” says the final investigation report by the Civil Aviation Ministry.
This “probably contributed to errors in complex decision making as well as susceptibility to perceptual errors. The possibility of visual illusions causing errors in distance and depth perception cannot be ruled out due to degraded visual cues of orientation due to low visibility and sub optimal performance of the PIC’s windshield wiper in rain,” said the 267-page report which has data explainers and visuals of debris from the crash as evidence.
In summary, the report said the probable cause of the crash was non-adherence to standard operating procedure by the pilot flying the aircraft. “The probable cause of the accident was the non-adherence to standard operating procedures by the pilot flying, wherein, he continued an unstabilised approach and landed beyond the touchdown zone, halfway down the runway, in spite of a go around call by the pilot monitoring, which warranted a mandatory go around and the failure of the pilot nonitoring to take over controls and execute a go around,” the report said.
A “go around” is when pilots decide to abort a landing before or after touching down if they feel that they may not be able to bring the aircraft to a safe stop. In a “go around”, the aircraft informs the air traffic control of their decision to abort their planned landing before making another approach to land at the same or another airport.
The Air India Express flight IX-1344 from Dubai to Calicut was operating under the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indians stranded abroad because of coronavirus lockdowns. The Air India Express, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, has only Boeing 737 aircraft in its fleet.
The Kozhikode airport has a tabletop runway, one of those located on the top of a plateau or hill with one or both ends adjacent to a steep precipice which drops into a deep gorge.