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Scores dead in worst air accident in India in more than a decade

A low-cost airline flight from Dubai crashed during a landing attempt on Saturday morning at Mangalore on the southwest coast of India, killing 158 passengers and crew. There were eight survivors.

It is the worst air accident in India in more than a decade and involves the state-run Air India, whose record has been marred by several near-misses. In a country where air travel is growing at giddy rates, there is much introspection on laggard infrastructure and the lack of adequate air safety measures.

India’s airlines will acquire 1,000 new aircraft over the next two decades to meet burgeoning demand in the world’s fastest growing air travel market. But airports and landing systems have failed to keep up. Only half-a-dozen Indian airports — all recently privatized — have been upgraded to modern standards.  Experts feel that all kinds of safety standards — like sufficient training of pilots, recruitment of qualified flight engineers — have all been compromised in the rush for growth.

The accident could jolt India’s airlines, aviation ministry officials and regulators into action. And if that does not lead to concrete action, the next tragedy could be around the corner.