Black box points finger at Air India crash pilot

Court of inquiry in New Delhi hears evidence that the captain overshot runway despite warning, then made a fatal attempt to take off again.

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DUBAI // The pilot of the Air India Express plane that crashed on landing in Mangalore, India, was to blame for the tragedy, it was reported yesterday. Flight 812 from Dubai crashed while attempting to land at Bajpe Airport on May 22. The crash killed 158 passengers, most of whom worked in Dubai and the northern Emirates.

A New Delhi court of inquiry heard evidence retrieved from the cockpit voice recorder suggesting that the Serbian pilot, Capt Zlatko Glusica, made a series of bad decisions leading up to the crash, according to The Times of India. The six-member court of inquiry was set up by Air India, a federally owned company, to investigate the cause of India's first major air crash since 2000. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Boeing, manufacturers of the two-year-old plane, submitted flight data obtained from the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder to the Court of Inquiry.

The inquiry heard that information retrieved from the aircraft's data recorder showed the captain overshot the runway despite warnings from his co-pilot. The data recorder also revealed that Glusica attempted to take off again after touch-down, with only 244 metres of tarmac left of the 2.4-kilometre runway. "We don't have runway left," said his co-pilot HS Ahluwalia - the last thing recorded in the cockpit.

The plane then plunged into a forested gorge and was engulfed in flames. Only eight passengers survived. Air India was unwilling to comment on the findings of the inquiry. Questions remain as to why a trained pilot, whom Indian media reported as having had at least 10,000 hours flying experience, did not change course sooner. Families who lost relatives in the crash received interim compensation from Air India, amounting to Dh78,371 for those 12 and older and Dh39,185 for children under 12. Final compensation payments are still pending.

Mr P Karunkaran, MP of the town of Kasaragod, is reported to have arranged a meeting today with the prime minister and the civil aviation minister, Praful Patel. The aim of the meeting, according to The Times of India, is to push for a speedy settlement of compensation due. "We will take care of the families," Arvind Jadhav, the chairman and managing director of Air India, told a press conference in Dubai in June. He added that he would help victims' families find jobs and also set up a trust fund to assist them. "This is my personal pledge," he said. Mr Jadhay took over Air India's top post in May last year.

The crash of Flight 812 was India's worst aviation disaster since 1996, when two jets collided mid-air over New Delhi, killing nearly 350 people.