New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought response from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation on a plea claiming there was a deliberate omission for years to install Engineered Materials Arrestor System (EMAS) at airports, which prevent aircraft from overshooting runways at vulnerable airports such as Mangaluru and Kozhikode.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde has issued a notice to the ministry and DGCA on a plea filed by a Delhi resident Rajen Mehta, an 85-year-old retired engineer.
The plea has been filed through advocate Shohit Chaudhry. It seeks installation of EMAS at the airports considered vulnerable.
The plea also cited the accidents of August 7 at Calicut International Airport and May 22, 2010 at Mangalore.
Both these airports have table-top runways. The petitioner contended that if EMAS were to be installed, it could have helped in averting the plane crash.
"The existence of EMAS was brought to the knowledge of the Airport 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 in Mangalore and Calicut causing loss of hundreds of lives, which could have been saved by the timely action of the authorities concerned.
The plea pointed out that EMAS has been installed at 125 airports across the globe. The petitioner also sought an inquiry into delay in installation of EMAS, despite prior knowledge on the airports which are vulnerable, and insisted that criminal action should be taken against those 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 is 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 Court of Inquiry, probing the Mangaluru crash, had specifically recommended that EMAS like systems should be installed on the runway overshoot areas, especially for table-top airports. Yet, no action has been taken," it added.