Every time i walked on the tarmac towards the plane, the sight of this airstrip made my heart skip a beat, you could only see the distant horizon at the end of the runway. And the whole world now knows that its a table top airstrip that contributed in a large part to the disaster that unfolded last week.
Anxiety levels were usually high every time the plane landed or took off. Imagine 15-20 seconds into the flight and WHAM! the ground beneath has disappeared and you are hovering above the MRPL refineries. But that's a routine experience one gets used to and to my good fortune and luck nothing serious happened except for one untoward incident in this period.
This particular (and eventful flight) happened by accident, I was to take a Indian Airlines flight to mangalore but missed the flight as the cab driver unwittingly dropped me at the mumbai international terminal. You ought to specifically tell the cab/auto fellows in Mumbai, otherwise they automatically drop you at the Int'l airport which incidentally is on a farther side if you traveling from South Bombay. So by the time I had finished my fracas with the cab guy and managed to land at the domestic terminal, the flight had taken off.
I went to the airlines office and explained them my plight, a very discerning official went out of the way and converted that ticket to a seat in ‘Alliance Air’ which was supposed to board that noon. I thanked him profusely little realizing that this was anyway a cheaper airline and a part of the Indian airlines network to service goddamned places in the country . The Alliance fleet contained all used and discarded aging planes from the alliance fleet in US and generally used as feeder airline in India . The interiors of this plane & its service were equally appalling, could even put a state road transport services to shame.
This was an almost empty flight and I was seated about two rows behind the fuselage (center). The flight mercifully took off on time and the inflight magazine (it was provided then) helped me take my mind off the dreary condition of the plane and its inflight experience.
As the pilot made his announcement and the plane started to descent towards mangalore, the peculiarity of this airport combined with the impression of this flight heightened by anxiety levels. I had my heart in my mouth when the plane landed with a resounding THUD and it was so forceful that all the empty seats behind me folded up like reclining chairs (those chairs were very different what you see now-a-days). I immediately bent forward bracing for some kind of impact which thankfully dint happen. I guess the pilot panicked and force landed this plane when it might have overshot the touching down point on this 8000 feet runway. And unlike the ill fated IX 812 it some how managed to pull back from the precipice.
The location of mangalore’s Bajpe airport, locals say was more because of political expediency than other factors. The local politician and; his clout ensured that the airport that was originally earmarked in Mulki/Padubidri (a town 27 Kms from Mangalore) was shifted to this plateau. And everybody thereafter just prayed that such an incident never happened.
My condolences and prayers for the bereaved.