Tabletop runway: What is it and why these airports are risky- Explained

By: |
August 8, 2020 3:05 PM

The recent crash of Air India Express Plane with 191 people at the Kozhikode airport has pointed out how risky tabletop runways can be.

The runway has a steep precipice that drops into a gorge on both sides and ends.

The recent crash of Air India Express Plane with 191 people at the Kozhikode airport has pointed out how risky tabletop runways can be. Many flight crashes have taken place due to a tabletop runway as landing can be extremely tricky and challenging for pilots. It is to note that a tabletop runway is usually made over hills after levelling the surface. There are as many as six tabletop runways in India where landing flights is somewhat difficult as there is no additional space on the runway. Since there are many issues pertaining to safety of aircraft, crew and passengers, many international flights and Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 do not land on these airports in India.

The Kozhikode airport has a tabletop runway on top of a plateau. The runway has a steep precipice that drops into a gorge on both sides and ends. The structure is believed to have caused the crashing of an Air India Express plane as there was no margin for overshooting the runway. The plane went down the slope till around 35 feet and the impact was such that the plane was halved causing deaths of many.

A report by The Indian Express citing some senior government officials claim that the plane did not catch fire which helped reduce the number of casualties. Further, the report said that it is a possibility that the plane could have touched down at a higher speed than usual which gave less time to the pilot to bring it to halt. Infact, when the plane landed, it was raining heavily.

The crash has been reported as a major one after 2010, when a similar incident took place at the tabletop runway of Mangalore airport. Apart from Mangalore and Kozhikode, airports like Lengpui airport in Mizoram, Kullu and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh and Pakyong airport in Sikkim have tabletop runways. Notably, landing on these airports have to be done with such precision that there is no room for errors.

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