The Anniversary of Air India Express Flight 812 Is This Month

The Anniversary of Air India Express Flight 812 Is This Month
Sean d'Silva (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2 ), via Wikimedia Commons

On May 22nd, 2010, Air India Express Flight 812, a Boeing 737-800 carrying 166 passengers and crew, embarked on a seemingly routine flight from Dubai to Mangalore, India.

What transpired that morning, however, etched a dark mark in aviation history.

A series of unfortunate events, culminating in pilot error, led to a devastating crash that claimed the lives of 158 people.

This was India’s third-deadliest aviation disaster.

A Challenging Approach to a “Critical Airfield”

The Anniversary of Air India Express Flight 812 Is This Month
Paul Spijkers (GFDL or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

The flight from Dubai progressed uneventfully until the descent towards Mangalore.

The airport, nestled amidst hillocks with a short runway, presented a challenge for landing.

Crucially, it was designated as a “critical airfield” by Indian aviation authorities.

Furthermore, this mandated that only the captain, not the first officer, was to perform takeoffs and landings.

A Captain Asleep, a Crucial Approach Goes Wrong

Here’s where the sequence of events took a turn for the worse.

Captain Zlatko Glušica, a Serbian national employed by Air India Express, had reportedly slept for a significant portion of the flight.

This left the first officer, Shyam Mohan Ahluwalia, responsible for handling the crucial approach phase.

The approach itself was far from ideal.

The aircraft came in too high and too fast, jeopardizing a safe landing on the short runway.

Despite this, Captain Glušica, possibly disoriented after waking up, continued the approach.

The Anniversary of Air India Express Flight 812 Is This Month
Sean d’Silva (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

Recognizing the danger, First Officer Ahluwalia, in a commendable display of airmanship, urged the Captain to initiate a “go-around” maneuver – essentially, aborting the landing and circling for another attempt.

Tragically, these crucial warnings were not heeded by Captain Glušica.

A Devastating Crash and a Horrific Aftermath

The aircraft continued its descent at an unsafe speed, leaving little room for error. With the runway ending in sight, the inevitable occurred.

The plane overshot the runway, careened down a steep hillside, and burst into flames.

Furthermore, the horrific crash left only eight survivors amidst the wreckage.

The aftermath of the disaster was a period of intense investigation and mourning.

The investigation commission pinpointed several contributing factors, including:

  • Pilot fatigue: Captain Glušica’s sleep deprivation likely impaired his judgment and ability to handle the challenging approach.
  • Inadequate Crew Resource Management (CRM): Communication and collaboration within the cockpit were found to be lacking, preventing the first officer from effectively challenging the captain’s decision.
  • Continuing an unstabilized approach: Ignoring the dangers of the high-speed approach ultimately sealed the plane’s fate.
Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learning from Tragedy: Improved Safety Measures

The Air India Express Flight 812 tragedy served as a stark reminder of the importance of crew communication and adherence to safety protocols.

Following the crash, airlines, including Air India Express, implemented stricter regulations on:

  • Pilot rest periods: Ensuring pilots are well-rested before flights became a higher priority.
  • Crew resource management: Training programs were revamped to emphasize the importance of assertive communication within the cockpit, empowering first officers to challenge unsafe decisions made by captains.

Re-evaluating Critical Airfield Policies

Overall, the crash brought renewed scrutiny to “critical airfields” like Mangalore.

While the policy aimed to ensure safe landings by experienced pilots, it also potentially hindered the first officer’s ability to intervene during a critical situation.

Furthermore, this incident led to a reevaluation of such policies in India.

The story of Air India Express Flight 812 is a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of prioritizing safety in aviation.

In conclusion, the lessons learned from this tragedy continue to shape pilot training, crew communication protocols, and airfield safety regulations, aiming to prevent similar catastrophes in the future.

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By AviationSource News 5 Min Read
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