Monday, September 13 2021

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Kya hai ye Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Muslim (What is this Hindu-Muslim)? I started this shop with my business partner Shah Rukh. I source my chicken from a Muslim-run market. My shop has Hindu workers. They say the ban will only affect a small number of people. That is simply not true, such is the way these businesses are linked.

That’s Raj Kumar—owner of a chicken shop in Mathura—expressing anger at the Uttar Pradesh government’s designation of 22 out of 70 city wards as “pavitra teerth sthal” (holy pilgrimage sites)—which essentially bans the sale of liquor and meat in these areas. This follows a failed attempt to ban slaughterhouses—which was struck down by the Allahabad High Court. 

A very big announcement: We are so excited to announce that the splainer app is here! Well, we’re first rolling out the Android version, but the iOS app will be out very soon (pinky promise!). Be sure to download it here. And with all new rollouts, we expect there will be inevitable bugs or glitches. So pretty please, send all complaints over to us at talktous@splainer.in.

Big Story

A worrying report on an Air India tragedy

The TLDR: The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has issued the findings of its investigation into the crash of an Air India Express plane in Kozhikode last year. It reveals serious pilot errors, violations of standard protocols and systemic failures.


Remind me about this plane crash…

Here’s what happened


  • In August, 2020, an Air India Express plane overshot the runway in Kozhikode, Kerala, and broke into two—killing 21 people, including both pilots. 
  • The two-year-old Boeing 737-800 flew in from Dubai on Friday at 7:40 pm in the midst of torrential rain. 
  • It was a repatriation flight, bringing back 174 adult Indians, 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew. 
  • Many of them were working class Indians who had lost their Middle East jobs to the pandemic—and were waiting for months to return home. 
  • The pilot was 56-year-old Deepak Sathe—a highly experienced former Wing Commander in the Indian Air Force—who had successfully landed the plane 27 times at Kozhikode. The co-pilot was 32-year-old Akhilesh Kumar.


Point to note: At the time of the crash, there were a number of key complicating factors. The pilots were attempting to land in the middle of a thunderstorm—with strong winds and poor visibility. And they were landing in what is known as a tabletop airport—i.e. it is built on top of a hill with one or both ends of the runway ending in a steep drop. There are seven such airports in the country: Lengpui (Mizoram), Shimla and Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), Pakyong (Sikkim), Kozhikode and Kannur (both Kerala) and Mangalore (Karnataka)—where the previous such tragedy occurred. See what the airport runway looks like below:


So what does the report say…

Let’s start with human error. It is now clear that the pilot in command Sathe made a number of bad decisions. 


One: After a first failed landing, he made a second attempt on runway 10—with strong tailwinds of 11 knots (20 km/hour), which pushed the plane forward, and over the edge. Here’s what the report found:


"Before the approach for runway 10 as well, the Pilot in Command did not carry out adequate briefing for landing with tailwinds, in rain and poor visibility. The mandatory calculation of landing distances was omitted.”


And this when at least one of the windshield wipers wasn’t functioning.


Two: Standard Operating Procedures called for diverting the plane to the nearest airport—in this case Tiruchirappally in Tamil Nadu, 45 minutes from the Kozhikode airport:


“The Pilot in Command took a decision not to divert after the [first] 'missed approach' on runway 28 even though there were alternate airfields available in close proximity and there was enough fuel on board. Subsequently, without any risk assessment, the Pilot in Command continued for a second approach into Kozhikode.”


Three: The co-pilot urged Sathe to ‘Go Around’ after the first failed landing—but was ignored:


"After making two unassertive attempts to attract the Pilot in Command's attention towards the unstabilized approach, using non-standard vocabulary, he asked the Pilot in Command to 'Go Around' just before touchdown. In spite of knowing full well that the approach was unstabilized and the Pilot in Command was not responding, the First Officer did not take over the controls as per the company Standard Operating Procedures and initiate a 'Go Around'.”


FYI: A 'Go Around' is when pilots decide to abort a landing before or after touching down if they feel that it is not safe.


Four: The pilot may have made errors due to underlying medical conditions:


“The pilot in command was taking multiple un-prescribed anti-diabetic drugs that could have probably caused subtle cognitive deficits due to mild hypoglycaemia, which probably contributed to errors in complex decision-making.”


And what about those ‘systemic failures’?


In today’s edition

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Smart & Curious

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