It was a close call for the 180 passengers on board a GoAir flight G8811. An Airbus A320 jet operated by the Indian low-cost carrier rolled off the runway during landing at Bengaluru Airport, India. The aircraft then took off again from the grass patch for a second landing attempt before being diverted to another airport. It is the latest in a series of recent incidents of runway excursions suffered by Indian carriers.

Arriving from Nagpur (NAG) on November 11, 2019, the GoAir A320 (VT-WGR) aircraft touched down at Bengaluru (BLR) veering off the runway into the grass-covered strip as it continued to its go-around run.

Following the runway excursion, the plane lifted off from the grass patch and proceeded to circle over Bengaluru. The flight was eventually diverted to Hyderabad (HYD), where it landed safely and without injury to passengers.

According to sources from India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), as cited by the Times of India, the crew of the GoAir A320 stated that the plane had deviated to the left during the go-around at Bengaluru. Preliminary reports indicate that the incident took place in poor weather conditions and low visibility.

“Due to bad weather at the airport, the aircraft initiated a go-around. During the go-around, the left engine stalled,” a source was quoted as saying by the newspaper. After the plane landed at Hyderabad, mud deposit, including shreds of grass, were discovered on the left main landing gear.

An investigation into the incident and the dangerous take-off from outside of the airstrip has been launched. The DGCA has reportedly grounded the entire crew of flight G8811 and summoned both of the GoAir pilots to appear before it on November 15, 2019. The pilot in command has reportedly been suspended.

"This reportable incident was reported immediately to the DGCA - the industry regulator. Pending the investigation by GoAir and the regulator, the flight crew have been kept off flying duty," the airline said in a statement as quoted by the news channel.

When it rains, it pours

This latest incident should certainly raise red flags for India’s civil aviation authorities, following an alarming number of similar cases of runway excursions recently. According to the Hindustan Times, in August 2019, the DGCA suspended 12 pilots in six different investigations following lapses that occurred during a three-month period between April and July 2019.

In mid-summer 2019, five incidents in three days – two Air India Express and three SpiceJet flights – at different airports in India involved aircraft overshooting the runway and/or veering off the airstrip – all of these also reported as having occurred during bad weather conditions.

On June 30, 2019, an Air India Express’ Boeing 737-800 travelling from Dubai with 183 passengers and six crew members on board veered off the taxiway after landing at Mangalore Airport (IXE), getting stuck on a patch of grass and mud. Also on that day, a Q400 operated by SpiceJet overshot the runway in Surat (STV).

At the time, the Director of Mangalore International Airport V V Rao told India’s TNM news channel: “The pilot, while attempting to land, could not establish a stable approach so the aircraft circled the runway and landed in second attempt… The aircraft skid after the pilot was unable to control the speed while turning from the runway to the taxiway.”

Coming back to the timeline, on July 1, 2019, the tail of a Boeing 737-800 operated by the very same Air India Express, brushed against the runway during landing at Kozhikode (CCJ). On the same day, a SpiceJet Boeing 737-800 skid and overshot the main runway at Mumbai airport (BOM). Another SpiceJet 737-800 rolled off the runway at Kolkata (CCU), on July 2, 2019, damaging four runway edge lights.

Is the frequency of such incidents, as some industry experts have observed, a result of insufficient pilot training on part of certain Indian airlines or simply a result of the difficult weather conditions in certain regions of the country, particularly during the Monsoon season? Or both?