Ouch: Indian Airlines Had Five Landing “Incidents” In Two Days

Filed Under: Other Airlines

All things considered aviation is incredibly safe. Incidents occur, though fortunately a vast majority of them don’t have any fatalities. While they might make the news, everyone makes it out safely, and there are no major injuries.

Along those lines, two Indian airlines — Spicejet and Air India Express — had a rough start to the week.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, the two airlines had a combined total of five incidents on landing. Fortunately there were no fatalities, though you also can’t help but wonder if this is just a really bad coincidence, or reflective of a bigger issue.

So, what happened?

  • On Monday an Air India Express 737-800 flying from Dammam to Kohzikode had a tail strike on landing; amazingly the plane returned to service about seven hours later
  • On Monday a Spicejet Dash 8 flying from Bhopal to Surat Gujarat overran the runway by nearly 900 feet
  • On Tuesday a Spicejet 737-800 flying from Jaipur to Mumbai overran the runway, and was going about 80 knots at the end of the runway; the nose gear ended up collapsing, and the plane was substantially damaged
  • On Tuesday a Spicejet 737-800 flying from Pune to Kolkata veered right during landing, making contact with a number of runway lights, before the crew managed to get the plane back on the runway centerline; the plane returned to service about eight hours later
  • On Tuesday an Air India Express 737-800 flying from Dubai to Mangalore veered right on landing and the nose gear went over a drainage ditch at the end of the runway (below is a video of that)

Admittedly India has had bad weather the past few days, and at least some of the incidents were weather related. Still, to see five incidents over the course of two days is pretty significant.

Incidents happen, so I suppose this could just be bad luck.

However, it is also worth noting that over the past decade or so we’ve gone from a pilot surplus to a pilot shortage. As we see air travel become more accessible and the aviation industry grow, we’re also seeing less experienced pilots at the controls.

That’s true across the world, especially at low cost carriers. So while I’m not saying that’s definitely the case here, having this number of landing incidents in a short period is… concerning.

This is only the start of India’s monsoon season, so hopefully this was isolated and isn’t reflective of what’s to come.

  1. Is it me, or do a disproportionate number of these runway excursions tend to involve 737 NG series aircraft. I can’t remember the last time I read about an A320 going off the runway. Does anybody know if there is some aspect of the 737s design that makes it more difficult to control on slippery surfaces?

  2. Most of the genuinely scary flights I’ve had have been domestic sectors in India during the monsoon….and ALL of them on Indian Airlines ( ie, the govt domestic airline) before it shut down. It seemed to me that they never diverted for weather: it was quite literally Bombay or bust.

  3. Its Boeing when stuff happen in India, cause thats what they usually have over there.
    And Indian knowledge and skills generally sucks. Boeing should try to get India to buy Airbus, statistics would improv Boeing vs Airbus 😉

  4. Was in Mumbai for 2 days during the burst of rain. Never seen anything like it and I come to Mumbai during this time every year for the last 19. The SpiceJet accident has forced Mumbai to close runways 9/27 due to damage and all planes taking off on runway 14. Unfortunately this runway isn’t as wide as the usual runway 27 so departures are going much more slowly. Just flew BOM to SIN on SQ423 last night and we were delayed by 1.5 hours due to the runway congestion.

  5. As someone that spends a lot of time in India for work, there are many great and of course challenging things about the country. “Bad weather”? No. Massive massive monsoon rains is more like it, with major flooding. I was told to be out of the country before it brought Mumbai to a standstill, so we left at the end of May.

    @RD – The runway width’s are the same pretty much (2 ft difference), it has to do with length, where 14/32 is shorter and the maze of taxi ways to get to/from T2 causes delays.

    I’m sure its a real mess at this time.

  6. Do we know the profile of all the pilots involved in these 5 incidents? Maybe we can spot a trend here ….

  7. Living in Kathmandu, one quickly learns that air travel in the Indian subcontinent is quite dangerous. We have several crashes a year just in Nepal…

    Local carriers, foreign carriers, doesn’t matter. Most all of the crashes or incidents here and in India are caused by drunk pilots, pilots with mental health issues, improper operation of aircraft such as the various tail strikes, intentional continuation of flights into bad weather, violating minimum weather conditions, faulty GPS coordinates given out by local aviation authorities and the like.

    Plus the arrogance of many crew members and submissive subordinates means that even if the first officer sees an accident in the making, they keep quiet or don’t know what to do.

    Only a fraction, perhaps half, of the Indian ATC personnel are actually certified, let alone competent, leading to a couple of close calls recently.

    Even Fly Dubai pilots have been hauled off the planes drunk as a skunk here in KTM. So always stick your nose inside the cockpit before the flight and start screaming if you smell booze.

    Ambient air temperatures on the runways are close to 130°F at the moment, so aircraft are operating off the charts in some cases.

    Torrential rains, thunderstorms and hail don’t help, but gross and repeated pilot error is the cause of these dangerous incidents.

    The only consolation is that the roads are even worse… But air travel here is not for the timid. If you’re on Etihad, Silk Air or Dragon Air, that’s one thing. Anyone else, be prepared.

    And yes, I’m a pilot.

  8. @SamNYC I’m not a pilot, but I have read many comparisons from pilots that went from 737 to A320 or A320 to 737. Apparently, the 737 requires a higher landing speed (approx. 10-20 knots) due to it’s wing design. Combined with the rainy conditions, it seems possible that it contributed to the runway overruns.

    You’re definitely on to something, it’s rare you see A320s overrun the runway, even in poor conditions. I’d be curious if anyone else has explored this theory.

  9. hmmm… what a bogus article. The US FAA noted 1316 civil aviation accidents (within the US, if that was unclear) in 2017. That equates to an average of 3.6 incidents a day. The difference here is that the Indian news outlet tend to show more scrutiny on aviation, especially state-owned airlines.

  10. Of note .. Mumbai received over 500mm of rain in 48 hours during these incidents.. 25mm equal 1 inch .. so thats 20 inches of rain .. also worth noting that the region has been in a severe drought. The net effect, severe runoff and flooding.

  11. Nice job in propagating stereotypes with a racially biased and totally absurd article.

    Wouldn’t you be the least bit interested in comparing number of incidents per passenger or flight across different countries?

    I’d like to see how it compares with USA or other countries in Asia.

    Please try to at least use common sense and basic journalism skills.

  12. @V, agreed, typical racial stereotyping article. Best part about it? Using the photo of jet airways which stopped flying in March.

  13. I agree with dr.reptile..high temps and high humidity even shuts down Phoenix,AZ. , during their monsoon season. Perhaps they are flying outside the aircrafts specs for flight during inclement weather conditions imho.
    Iam a pilot as well

  14. @endre 8 out of 10 for the sly racial slur! The only thing that would have scored full marks is adding something about the toilets and how it affects the operation of the aircraft. Keep up the good work….your nearly there!

  15. @ Lucky
    Please relpace to V above
    With max Sass
    in a blog post

    He’s done none of the above. All he’s done is list 5 events in the past 2 weeks on commercial flights in India. If something like this happens in Europe it’s huge news, because it’s rare.
    He’s even made an excuse for the events in the weather.

    People who see insult when someone points out issues are the reason improvement does not occur.

  16. @Jordan I’m sorry you are right about that part not sure why I even said width I meant runway isn’t as *long*. And plus the maze you mentioned……To go from T2 to Rwy 14 you have to cross runway 14 once to get to the other side, and If your a wide body where you need the full runway, you’d need to wait until there was absolutely no one on short final so you could use the length of the runway to get to the taxiway which enters you Behind the threshold of runway 14. The taxiway the narrowbodies use drop you off by the threshold marker which Wouldn’t be enough for us. I certainly remember not being far off the ground when the runway ended on departure yesterday. In these past 20 years not once have I used runway 14 during the monsoon season. First time!

  17. Lucky is doing the readership a service by pointing out the parlous state of aviation safety or rather the lack thereof, in South Asia in general… as mentioned, stay off the bush-league carriers whenever there is a choice.

    This kind of stuff happens all the time here… Yes, there were 1,316 incidents, etc., in the US in 2017, as one “person” pointed out unhelpfully, but the number of flights per day in the US is almost 40 times more, at least. (Incidents include such minor issues as cargo door lights going off during flight, bird strikes, etc.)

    There are only 100 flights per hour in India from a handful of major airports, but the ATC is already totally maxed out with numerous daily delays because of the low ATC capacity and incompetent controllers. In the US, there are about 4,000 flights per hour.

    The crash and incident rates in Nepal and India area are spectacular. And then there are the roads… Read my earlier post for the details.

  18. @Cedric~ A bit of packing tape and a buff up and it’s back in business! What could possibly go wrong?

  19. @kent. That encompasses all airlines flying within the usa including fedex, netjet, ups etc vs 1 airline. Plus you are alluding incidents to accidents which are 2 very different things in the eyes of that data. I know that data well.

  20. @Mark are you for real??? Indian airlines bought a lot of Airbus planes.. IndiGo airlines, GoAir, Vistara, Air India.. etc.. clearly those 737 pilots are the ones having problems. Go back to the cave where you came from. Pathetic Boeing apologist.

  21. Would anyone expect anything else, given that this is India ? The land of laziness, incompetence, zero professionalism. A land where drunk pilots keep their jobs and get promoted to management. What’s surprising is that more fatal accidents HAVEN’T occurred yet.

  22. Am I wrong or the main photo is showing a different livery other than Indian Airlines? Rather looks similar to Jet Airways.

  23. My point of view is flying is not a joke. In as much we like to fly we put trust on the crew similar to any mode of travel but in flying quite high. At the same time the trust imposed on the aircraft maintenance and ground handling is a compact package. We pay more attention to pitch in the cricket and curator is blamed when the 2Eleven on the flying ground and rest sitting around. Is it not important to check the runway and weather before allowing flights operations, so also the temperament of the crew in total fitness?

  24. @Nicola nope you’re not wrong at all. But airlines like SpiceJet and Vistara are actually using ex-Jet Airways 737 for some of their operations and if you look at the photo, where the jet airways text should be, you’ll actually see SpiceJet written in red on the plane. They just covered up the logo on the tail and cover the jet airways name with either “SpiceJet” or “Vistara” and use that plane for their own.

  25. @ snk — That’s actually a picture of one of the Spicejet planes that went off the runway (they took over some Jet Airways planes, and they did a really shoddy job repainting them).

  26. I am genuinely shocked by the level of racism tolerated by this forum. Most of you were crying a river for Lucky wanting to visit western China one week ago. But now it’s ok if he demeans a brown country with an overtly racist article?

    Lucky – you benefit from living in one of the most gay friendly societies in the world. The least you could do with your online presence is to not spread seeds of racism like this article. The depths of your white privilege are disgusting!

    You should apologize immediately to all Indians!

  27. The problem with the Boeing 737-800 is that it is long and low, that, together with the wing design means it needs to land faster than the A320. A friend of mine is a 737-800 pilot and in the beginning transitioning pilots used to previous versions of the 737 had a hard time achieving gentle landings, I still remember those crunchers in the early days of the 800. They obviously got the hang of it in time and the 800 is a successful plane but it is far from perfect. In my opinion, and many pilots I’ve spoken too over the years, Boeing maxed out the 737 design and went too far, even with the 800. That old 1960’s frame was never intended to be what the 800 became. Which might explain in part how they got themselves into the Max mess. They really need a clean sheet design. I spend lots of time on http://www.airliners.net and yes, 800’s end up in the gravel with impressive regularity. I can’t remember when last I saw a post about an A320 overshooting the runway, even in bad weather. The A320 is simply a better aircraft.

  28. @Joe – for someone who claims to know the data well, you failed to realize that the numbers are for civil commercial airline incidents only. Sure hope that you’re not a Boeing engineer.

  29. @Paolo – it’s not the article, although there is no fear of Lucky being nominated for a Pulitzer in the near future. It’s the inbred idiots who comment rubbish who have probably never travelled outside of a fifty km radius of their farm.

  30. @Travis – that made me laugh so hard! 🙂
    Lucky nominated for a Pulitzer would be better than Lufthansa’s 5-star Skytrax rating.

  31. I am Indian and there is nothing racist at all about this article. Keep up the good work Lucky!

  32. @V – it is not racist to point out that maybe, just *maybe* these incidents were caused by inexperienced pilots who happen to be from India and work at an Indian airline. Hell he even says in the follow-up paragraph that hiring relatively inexperienced pilots is hardly something exclusive to them, and mentions recent heavy rains as a likely factor – now where is the racism in pointing out that the country from bad weather in parts of the year? This is pretty much a well known fact.

    Now, if Lucky had said something along the lines of “the only reason these accidents keep happening is because brown people are born retards” or had made a lazy Indian tech support joke, then yes, THAT would be propagating racial stereotypes. But unless you’re reading an extra part of the article that the rest of us for some reason cannot see, that is certainly not the case.

  33. Hi Ben, thanks for covering this. My wife and 7 month old were stuck at Mumbai airport & hotel for 3 days because of the rain and the Spicejet plane blocking the main runway. It was absolutely chaotic – they didn’t announce delays or cancellations until well into the morning several hours after departure time (we were at the airport all night). Once they made the decision, they had all passengers leave the airport (which was difficult to do because of rain and flooding. We barely got a room at an airport hotel where we met several Spicejet pilots who were complaining bitterly about safety and that Mumbai airport should be shut down during the monsoon. It took us 3 days to fly back to the States. We were downgraded to coach from premium economy and it took 26 hours but glad to be back.

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