New Delhi: In a tragic incident which took place on Friday evening, an Air India Express flight with 190 on board overshot the tabletop runway at Kozhikode airport while landing in heavy rains and fell into a valley 35 feet below and broke into two, killing at least 18 people. It is still not clear as to what caused the mishap. However, amongst many theories floating around, one such being cited is the risk posed by tabletop runways. Constructed on elevated terrains and mostly having little space for last-minute maneuver, tabletop runways can be highly challenging for the pilots. Also Read - Maggots Found in Bedsores of Man Post Discharge from Kerala Hospital; Minister Orders Probe

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Tabletop runways are constructed on hilly or elevated terrains. Also, there could be low lying areas adjacent to such runways and there could be gorges at the end of such runways. Also Read - International Flights: Saudi Arabia Permits Outbound Passenger Flights to India Under Vande Bharat Mission

India has 5 tabletop runways

Tabletop runways are there at four airports operated by Airports Authority of India (AAI). They are at Kozhikode, Mangalore (Karnakata), Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) and Pakyong (Sikkim). The Lengpui airport in Mizoram, which is with the state government, also has a tabletop runway.

What are the risks posed by such runways?

Talking to news agency PTI, a senior Air India pilot said that automation might not help in the case of tabletop runways. There is also the issue of optical illusion, where the runway might seem to be nearer whereas it would actually be further away, he added.

The pilot also stressed that there is not much buffer zone, unlike normal runways.

There are tabletop runways in different parts of the world and only when the runway length is less, there could be issues with the landing of aircraft.

According to the official, pilots are generally told about such runways and various restrictions.

Earlier in the day, union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who went to Kerala to inspect the crash site, said he himself had several questions, but the time demands patience for the investigation report to come.