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SC notice on plea for EMAS to avoid accidents at tabletop runways

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to reply, within two weeks, on a plea claiming there was a deliberate omission for years in installing the Engineered Materials Arrestor System (EMAS), which prevent aircraft from overshooting runways at vulnerable airports such as Mangaluru and Kozhikode.

Updated Feb 16, 2021 16:48 PM

SC notice on plea for EMAS to avoid accidents at tabletop runways

A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, told Centre's counsel: "People are trapped in the aircraft, it is a horrible sight. Please look into it."

The court has posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

"Learned counsel for the respondent is granted two weeks' time to file counter affidavit. List the matter after two weeks," said the court in its order.

In September last year, the bench had issued notice to the ministry and the DGCA on a plea by Delhi resident Rajen Mehta, who is an 85-year-old retired engineer. The plea has been filed through advocate Shohit Chaudhry.

The plea sought installation of EMAS at the airports considered vulnerable and cited the August 7, 2020 accident at Calicut International Airport (Kozhikode) and May 22, 2010 at Mangaluru. Both these airports have table-top runways. The petitioner contended if EMAS were to be installed, it could have helped in averting the plane crashes.

"The existence of EMAS was brought to the knowledge of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the respondents (DGCA and Civil Aviation Ministry) in 2008. However, for no plausible reason, it has not been installed till date," said the plea.

The petitioner argued that the aviation industry has seen two horrific incidents at Mangaluru and Kozhikode, causing loss of hundreds of lives, which could have been saved by the timely action of the authorities concerned.

Pointing out that EMAS has been installed at 125 airports across the globe, the petitioner also sought an inquiry into delay in its installation, despite prior knowledge on the airports which are vulnerable, and insisted that criminal action should be taken against people responsible.

"On May 22, 2010, a Boeing 737-800 passenger jet operating Air India Express Flight 812 from Dubai to Mangalore ... crashed on landing at Mangalore Airport, resulting in the death of 158 persons," said the plea.

The petitioner said the EMAS system was an arrestor bed of crushable material, like concrete blocks, placed at the end of a runway to stop an aircraft from overshooting. "In 2008, due to the extreme economic crisis, the Calicut (Kozhikode) EMAS project was put in abeyance," the petition said.

The petitioner cited that the Court of Inquiry, probing the Mangaluru crash had specifically recommended EMAS like system should be installed on the runway overshoot areas, especially for table-top airports. Yet, no action has been taken, he argued.

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