The black boxes of an Air India Express jet that crashed, killing at least 18 people, has been recovered after authorities completed the rescue operation.
The digital flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder can help investigators piece together what caused the Boeing Co 737 to skid off the runway and break apart while attempting to land on August 7. Operating as Flight 1344 for Air India Express from Dubai, the plane carrying 190 passengers and crew touched down with a tail wind, according to archived local weather data, which would be counter to the usual practice of landing into the wind for more control.
It came to rest in a valley near a hilltop airport in Kozhikode, India, which has been hit by torrential rains since Thursday.
Most passengers were workers returning home after losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, while others were visitors who were stranded. India has banned scheduled international commercial service because of Covid-19 and only allowed repatriation flights with special permission from regulators.
The dead included both pilots, Air India Express said.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced the recovery of the black boxes on Twitter. Rescue operations have been completed and 149 people are in hospital, 22 of whom are in a critical condition, local authorities in Kozhikode said in a statement. Another 22 have been discharged. No fire was reported at the time of landing.
“We regret that there has been an incident regarding our aircraft,” Air India Express said in a statement. Help centres were being set up in Sharjah and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Boeing said India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation will investigate the crash,
and the Chicago-based planemaker is prepared to provide a technical team to assist the
US National Transportation Safety Board. “We are in contact with the Air India team, and have offered to support them in any way possible,” Boeing said in a statement on Saturday.
Air India Express said top officials, including the parent company’s chairman, reached the accident site. Two relief flights will operate from New Delhi and Mumbai for victims and their family members.
The last fatal plane crash in India was in 2010, when an Air India Express Boeing plane overshot the runway at Mangalore — also a table top — and burst into flames, killing 158 people. That was the first fatal crash of a passenger aircraft in India in a decade.