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60 Seconds Before Crash In Mumbai, Pilots Contacted Airport For Landing

The plane had completed its test flight and it seemed to have done fine. The pilots had flown the 26-year-old aircraft to Surat and were just moments away from landing at Mumbai’s Juhu airstrip. At 1.07 pm, the pilots spoke to the Juhu air traffic control or ATC tower and confirmed that they were set to land.
Sixty seconds later, something horribly went wrong. The plane lost contact with the ATC officials at Juhu and Mumbai airports. Officials tried to switch frequencies to make contact but it didn’t help.

The 12-seater Beechcraft King Air C90 with four people on board crashed into an under-construction building in Mumbai’s densely-populated Ghatkopar seconds later.

Investigators are yet to examine the black box, which records all flight information to ascertain what happened.

That there was no time for the pilots to even message a SOS message that it was sudden.

By some accounts, Captain Pradeep Rajput and Captain Maria Zuberi did the best they could under the circumstances to steer the plane away from a school and other populated parts of Ghatkopar and crashed through the boundary wall of an under-construction residential complex.

CCTV footage that has emerged has captured the moment of the plane crash when the metal hit the concrete with a loud explosion, turning the aircraft into a ball of fire. The two pilots and the two maintenance engineers lost their lives. So did a pedestrian.

The plane had taken off for the 45-odd minute flight at 12.20 pm from the Juhu airstrip after a puja. A video of the aircraft’s last take-off has the engineers cheering its take-off. “Yes, the landing gearing is in,” said one, others clapped excitedly.

This was the plane’s first flight in nine years after a complete overhaul.

The Uttar Pradesh government had bought the 12-seater in 1995 for the state’s top dignitaries including chief ministers. But after an accident that rendered the aircraft unserviceable, the UP government sold the aircraft to UY Aviation.

A Mumbai-based aircraft maintenance company Indamer Aviation was contracted the job of overhauling the plane. It was this company that had taken permission for the ill-fated flight.

Kanu Gohain, Executive Director of Indamer Aviation, said the company had thoroughly repaired the plane. “The checking process is done twice to be fail-safe,” Mr Gohain, who was the country’s aviation regulator earlier, told news agency ANI.

The aviation regulator is recording the statements of Indamer Aviation officials.

The crash has also highlighted the threats that the Mumbai airport poses.
Ghatkopar is one of the many densely-populated localities along the approach path of Mumbai airport’s main runway, which, with its high-rise buildings are at risk in case of an accident.

Lawyer Yashwant Shenoy, who has petitioned the high court to demolish such structures or relocate the airport, told NDTV that Thursday’s accident had reinforced his concerns in this regard.

“Mark my words. This is just a trailer and it will be worse if a large commercial plane crashes,” he said.

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