Thursday, June 3, 2010

Air Marshal (Retd) Bhushan Nilkanth Gokhale to head Mangalore air Crash Inquiry

Air Marshal (Retd) Bhushan Nilkanth Gokhale, a fighter pilot and a former vice-chief of IAF, will head the Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the Mangalore air crash set up by the government on Thursday. Making the announcement nearly two weeks after the crash in which 158 people were killed, an official spokesperson said here the CoI has been asked to complete its investigation and submit the report by August 31.

The Gokhale inquiry would investigate all aspects of the crash of the Air India Express Boeing 737-800 at the Bajpe Airport on May 22. The plane was operating on scheduled flight IX-812 from Dubai to Mangalore when it plunged into a ravine after overshooting the runway on landing. An official notification said, "Finding it expedient to hold an inquiry into the circumstances of the accident, the government has appointed Air Marshal (Retd) Bhushan Nilkanth Gokhale to hold the investigation."

The government also appointed four experts from different fields to assist Gokhale as assessors. The assessors are Capt Ron Nagar, a former Flight Inspector and pilot of erstwhile Indian Airlines, former DGCA officer S S Nat, Babu Peter, Executive Vice President, (Engineering) in GoAir and former Director in Indian Airlines, and former Executive Director of Airports Authority of India Gurcharan Bhatura.

Director (Airworthiness) at DGCA, S N Dwivedi, will be the Secretary to the CoI, which would be headquartered here. Gokhale, who became the Vice Chief of Air Staff in 2006, has flown the most sophisticated fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force--the Sukhoi 30 MKI.

During his IAF tenure, he has flown over 3,500 hours on a variety of combat and trainer aircraft and seen active operations during the 1971 Indo-Pak hostilities. Gokhale, a qualified flying instructor and a fighter combat leader from the prestigious Tactics and Combat Development Establishment, was also the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Training Command.

Earlier in the day, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had said large amounts of data and material have been collected by various agencies, including Air India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the US National Transportation Safety Board, from the Mangalore crash site. All the material had been taken over by the Inspector of Accidents, which would now hand them over to the CoI.

"The Black Box (Flight Data Recorder), the Cockpit Voice Recorder and the Digital Flight Data Acquisition Unit have all been recovered," Patel said. Several theories relating to the crash -- like the plane taking an "incorrect" flight path or missing the touchdown point or suffering a brake failure besides pilots' fatigue or a judgemental error by them -- have been suggested by technical experts but all of them have said the final report of the probe should be awaited. PTI


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