Use of big data to avoid crashes at Lukla Airport

Lukla airport is located at the small town of Lukla, Khumbu, Solukhumbu District. Lukla being the gateway to the Mt. Everest conducts more than 30 daily flights at favorable weather condition. It is listed as one of the most extreme airport.

Fig:1. The runway at Lukla Airport in Lukla (Jeremy Broomfield)

Since 15th October 1973 there had been more than 10 crashes till date causing more than 40 deaths and permanent damage of the airplane causing millions of losses. As per the CAAN report operating in marginal flight condition, terrain well ahead of the designated area on the runway, inaccurate wind information conveyed to flight crew, visual-illusion, high terrain immediately beyond the northern end of the runway and a steeply angled drop at the southern end of the runway into the valley below has been the main reason behind the crashes in the Lukla airport.

Fig:2. Wreckage of crashed Goma Airline at Lukla. (Pasang Sherpa)

Can these causes of plane crash be minimized or solved permanently? As the science and technology is being promising day by day, we can assume at this pace in coming 10-20 years a machine would be self-learning. They could be able to learn the environment and act accordingly to the particular situation. We can take J.A.R.V.I.S (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System) as an example from the profound sci-fi movie Iron Man. Where Jarvis is a very intelligent A.I system developed by a Tony stark. It responses according to the human thoughts and acts accordingly.

During each flight, plane had to interface with different weather, wind, terrain conditions accordingly and most of the flight are successful. Since all these information and parameter values such as wind, height, location, temperature, pressure etc. encountered during the flight are stored in the flight recorder (black box). These data stored are of high value not only to determine the plane condition before the crash and to find out the reason of the crash.

Fig:3. Steep terrain just after a take-off at Lukla airport

Why don’t we use these data to build a system just like a Jarvis? As Jarvis guide Tony Stark in Iron Man; our system would guide pilot about what they should do at that particular situation. How they could handle the particular situation without any casualties. Our system would analyse the past data stored and compare it with data at that particular situation after processing would provide the valuable suggestion that pilot must do to avoid the situation safely. For example: in the case of visual-illusion related hazards in Lukla airport, causes pilot to descend low and contact terrain well ahead of the designated area on the runway. At such situation our system would guide pilot about the safe descend angle, height, velocity of plane to avoid contact with terrain for successful safe landing as per the result analysed from the past successful condition on the clear day.

Development of the Intelligent system which would assist pilot according to the past data of the successful flight could be a bun. It would not only prevent the casualties but also the losses airline paid for the permanent damage of the airplane.

Article By: Sanjeev Adhikari

Institute of Engineering, Thapathali Campus

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