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How bad weather affects airlines? - Reasons for Kozhikode Air India Express crash

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

By K.M.Barathkumar, III year B.B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.), SASTRA University


Two days back an Air India Express flight from Dubai to Kozhikode was crashed and split into two; all the flight services were stopped due to Covid-19. The flight was a board under the Vande Bharat Mission. 18 people out of 190 have died and others are under treatment. The flight crashed at Kozhikode airport after the plane skidded off the tabletop runway amid bad weather and fell into a 35 feet valley. 18 people including the pilot-in-command Captain Deepak Sathe and his co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar have died in this accident. The weather plays a major role in the airlines; hence many commercial flights have been cancelled due to bad weather.

How hot weather affects airlines

The heatwaves and coastal flooding are happening with greater frequency and intensity than just a few decades ago. Many airports are built near sea level, putting them at risk of more frequent flooding as ocean rises. Due to greenhouse gas emission, the frequency and intensity of these extremes are increasing rapidly. The frequency and intensity of air turbulence may increase due to strong winds. Stronger winds would force airlines and pilots to modify flight lengths, routings and potentially increase fuel consumption.

The flight lifting is generally affected by the density of the air. Air density mostly depends on air temperature and elevation. Higher temperature and higher elevation will reduce the density of the air. The lower the air density, the faster an aeroplane must travel to produce enough lift to take off. Due to lower air density, the flight takes more runways to reach a higher speed, sometimes the flight might risk running out of the room before reaching the sufficient speed. Hence when the density of the air is lower it was suggested to reduce the weight of the flight by reducing passengers or luggage. In hot places like Phoenix and Dubai and at airports with short runways like New York’s LaGuardia and Washington, D.C’s Reagan National the weight restrictions are implemented to control accidents. But carrying fewer passengers or fewer luggage will lead to a loss in revenue to the airlines. These restrictions surely affect the revenue of the long-haul flights, which require a large amount of fuel.

Building a long runway is another solution. But it is not possible for the airports on coastlines or in densely populated areas and buying the land and expanding the airport’s area is expensive and politically difficult.

How cold weather affects airlines

Aeroplanes are more efficient at low temperature than in warm temperature since cold air is denser than warm air. Commercial flights usually fly between 30 and 42 thousand feet from the sea level. At these altitudes, temperatures range from -48 to -69oF but if the temperature was -29oF or below the crew won’t start the flight. Maintenance crews usually warm the flight engines or keep the flight in a warm hanger before the start to protect them. Due to cold weather, the oil used in the flight engine might become thicker, which makes it harder for the engine to circulate it. The fuel used in the flight will freeze at -34oF. The cold weather will also affect the visibility, while the snowstorm has occurred outside and ice is creeping up the window. Along with the visibility problem, the cold weather makes the ground slippery. While the flight was landing or taking off, a slippery runway can be dangerous. It is very hard to drive a car on a slippery runway, imagine the same thing with a flight, it is very difficult.


Tabletop runway

Tabletop runways are generally constructed by chopping off the top of a hill, which creates a plateau or a tabletop and are often thought of as tricky for landings because of the lack of any margin for overshooting the runway. They may have steep precipices on either side that drop into deep gorges. According to pilots, landing on tabletop runways requires a precision approach with little to no room for errors.


It rained heavily at Kozhikode. The runway is too slippery. While applying the brake, the wheels of the flight get locked. While landing the flight the rubber in the plane tires melted and smoke came out and the flight fell in the valley and broke into two pieces.