New Delhi: Civil aviation minister Praful Patel on Saturday ordered a detailed investigation by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) into the Mangalore air crash.
The minister also announced financial assistance to the families of those killed in the air crash. He added that the families of those who had died would be paid up to $160,000 as India is a signatory to the Montreal Convention 1999.
Air India’s Anup Srivastava on the doomed plane, the passengers and pilots
In Mangalore, addressing a press conference, he said: “India has had a long unblemished record for several years. Unfortunately, this incident has saddened all of us and we are deeply shocked and pained.”
“Out of the 166 passengers and crew, four of the survivors have miraculously escaped with minor injuries, three with major injuries and one escaped unhurt. The entire wreckage of the aircraft has been found and rescue efforts are underway since early morning.”
Air India Express was operating flight IX-812 from Dubai to Mangalore. The state-of-the-art Boeing 737-800 was inducted on 15 January 2008.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also announced a compensation package of Rs2 lakh each for the families of those killed in the crash, according to TV reports.
Patel will be meeting Singh in New Delhi later this evening to brief him on what has been termed India’s worst air crash in a decade.
Civil aviation secretary Madhavan Nambiar said around 146 bodies including the body of the commander Zlatko Glusica, who piloted the ill-fated Air India’s Express IX-812 flight, and two female crew members had been found by 5 p.m.
Serbian expatriate Capt Zlatko Glusica had 10,200 hours of experience with 19 landings at Mangalore airport alone.
Blackbox and cockpit voice recorded are yet to be found, he said, adding the ministry may issue a court of inquiry order soon.
Patel said there was no real distress call from the pilot during landing. There were calm winds, no rain, Instrument Landing System approach and 6km visibility, besides friction quotient appeared to be normal.
The runway was made operational in 2006 while the new terminal building has just been opened by Airport Authority of India.
“There have been 32,000 landings at Mangalore airport since 2006,” the secretary said.
Most of the passengers were from Mangalore.
Air India’s Anup Srivastava said assistance team has been setup at Mangalore airport for relatives of the passengers. Nearly 60% of the passengers’ relatives have been reached out to and Air India was running a special flight to bring relatives from Dubai.
A huge expatriate population from India’s southern states like Karnataka and Kerala works in West Asia.
Former minister of state and Congress party’s Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor sought a probe into the overall safety standards of air passengers.
“Horrifying news of AirIndia Express crash w tragic loss of life ... urgent enquiry needed not only into accident but overall safety standards .... a lot of unwarranted cynicism abt inquiries into air disasters ... how else can u understand the reasons for the crash & take remedial measures? ... India gained from these blue-collar workers whose remittances helped keep our economy buoyant ... what can we do for their bereaved ones now?” he tweeted.