On Saturday (May 22, 2010) morning came the news of the crash at Mangalore aiport, when a flight from Dubai overshot the runway while landing. 160+ innocent lives were lost. A TOI report states that, "The runway at Mangalore airport is situated on a hillock, which in aviation parlance is known as a table top runway. Basically, the runway strip is built on flat land, but the area situated at either end of the runway, and its sides slope downwards. In such cases pilots have to be extra careful during landing and take-off, as any error in judgment can lead to a major disaster."
It appears that this tragedy was avoidable according to a letter by two environmental activists who had opposed the expansion of the airport(Many thanks to blogger and writer Dilip D'Souza who has put up the letter on his blog). They claim that the expansion of the 2nd runway was done in violation of applicable norms. According to these activists,
"For instance, if an aircraft has initiated take off, and a technical flaw requires emergency stop, the standard prescribes the minimum area that should be kept free to enable such a stop. In the instant case, the runway distance itself is about 2400 metres, and even if the area left is most cautiously utilised, what is left is only about 300 metres on each end of the runway. By the prescribed standard, this is far below the required distance needed for an emergency stop way. Therefore, the chances of an aircraft that has achieved the decision speed forcing an emergency stop are critically minimised, and the inevitable consequence could be that the plane would come crashing down the hillsides from a height of 80-100 metres on either side of the proposed runway."
The last sentence in the second quotation above seems like a chilling prediction.
[This blog entry has been edited after having been initially put up on Sunday 23, May 2010]