Landing flights on tabletop runways is a huge challenge for pilots, especially when it is raining. Tabletop runways are considered to be difficult to land an aircraft except for the best commercial pilots. A tabletop runway is completely a runway constructed over a hill, plateau, or mountain by leveling the surface. Such high-altitude runways have a steep drop either on one side or on both sides. The Calicut flight tragedy happened as a result of this. There have been several such accidents in the past also where airplanes have skidded off from tabletop runways in the country.
Experts in the Civil Aviation opined that When there is a cliff, as in the case of a Kozhikode accident, the pilots must be extra cautious to stop the plane at the right point. It creates an illusion that the runway is stretching along while, in reality, the runway is giving way to a gorge. However, the situation would be tricky in circumstances like heavy rainfall and sometimes pilots need to understand the right landing spot that leads to a plane overshooting the runway.
The most recent is the Mangalore tragedy that happened in 2010. It resulted in the death of 158 passengers. Karipur airport also has a tabletop runway. Houses and other buildings are located at the bottom of this tabletop runway. Unlike in the Mangalore accident, the flight did not fall off from the edge. This avoided an even bigger tragedy. It is hinted that the pilot’s sight was blocked by the rain or the mist, causing the flight to skid off the runway. After the Mangalore flight tragedy, the number of flight services to Calicut International airport was reduced due to security reasons.
There are three tabletop airports in India – Calicut International Airport in Malappuram, India and Mangalore International Airport in Mangalore, and Lengpui airport in Mizoram.
Director general of civil aviation had pointed out that the length of the runway, parallel taxi and runway and safety area at Karipur airport had to be increased as per law. Following this, the Airport Authority of India increased the length of the runway and safety area of the airport from 90 meters to 240 meters along with setting up necessary lighting arrangements. Apart from Karipur airport, the newly constructed Kannur airport also has a tabletop runway. However, pilots have pointed out that the length of the runway at Kannur airport can nullify all the limitations of tabletop runways.
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