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Plea in SC for installation of EMA safety systems at airports to pre-empt Kozhikode-like accidents

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New Delhi: A petition was today placed before the Supreme Court, asking it to issue directions for the installation of the fail-safe mechanism called Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS), designed to stop aircraft from overshooting runways. Such incidents have happened in the recent past in Mangaluru and Kozhikode, killing people. The apex court took cognizance of the issue and has issued relevant notices.

On August 7 an Air India Express aircraft overshot the Kozhikode airport runway in rain. Following this accident, there were debates that it could have been averted had the country’s civil aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, followed its own regulations after another Air India Express flight overshot the Mangalore airport runway in May 2010.

The 2010 crash in Mangalore had killed all 158 people on board. An enquiry report by former Indian Air Force Air Marshal BN Gokhale had warned about overshooting the paved runway surface.

Based on the court of inquiry report on the Mangaluru airport crash, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had recommended in May 2012 to the DGCA to provide suitable designed aircraft decelerating systems at both the Mangaluru and Kozhikode airports, both with tabletop runways.

According to reports, at both Mangalore and Kozhikode, the Airports Authority of India and the DGCA reportedly declined the proposal to have an EMAS, citing the high maintenance and operational cost.

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EMAS technology, which aims at reducing the severity of the consequences of runway excursion, is accepted internationally. However, the AAI had been toying with the idea of EMAS as early as 2008. Notably, the DGCA declared 11 airports as critical airports and Kozhikode was one of them, after the 2010 Mangalore crash. Apart from Kozhikode, airports in Leh, Kullu, Shimla, Port Blair, Agartala, Lengpui, Mangalore, Jammu, Patna and Latur were on the list.

– India Legal Bureau

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