x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pilot's son fights to clear his father's name over fatal Air India crash

Investigators blamed Zlatko Glusica for the Air India crash that killed 158 but his son has vowed to prove them wrong.

Capt Zlatko Glusica with his son Alexander and daughter Dunga.
Capt Zlatko Glusica with his son Alexander and daughter Dunga.

DUBAI //The son of the Serbian pilot blamed for an Air India crash in Mangalore that killed 158 people has called for the accident investigation to be reopened, and vows to clear his father's name.

Alexander Glusica, 26, said that investigators, while preparing the report that found his father negligent, had not considered what he claims are inadequate safety measures at Mangalore Airport. He has asked Air India to look into the airport's safety and other possible causes of the crash.

"I find it quite necessary to resolve the whole situation and to present our father to the public in the way that he really was, and not in the way he was described in the official report and in the media," said Mr Glusica, of Belgrade, who is also a pilot.

"The only aim of the report was, from the beginning of the investigation, to put the blame on my father. The crucial point in the report is how unsafe the Mangalore Airport is."

The ill-fated Air India Express flight had been travelling from Dubai to Mangalore when it overshot the runway and crashed at Mangalore Airport on May 22, 2010. Only eight people survived.

A court of inquiry appointed by the Indian government found Capt Zlatko Glusica responsible for the crash, saying that he had been sleeping for most of the flight and woke up disoriented when the aircraft was about to land.

The report said the captain, who died in the crash, had been sleeping in his seat for about an hour and 40 minutes during the flight, and that sleep inertia might have clouded his judgement.

However, his son pointed out that the aircraft caught fire after crashing into the instrument landing system at the end of the runway. He believes positioning the system in such a place was partly to blame for the disaster.

"The location of the non-frangible structure at this point is forbidden by every international aviation regulation," Mr Glusica said. "The access roads to the crash site are also in very bad condition. That is why the fire rescue operators failed to reach and contain the fire in a reasonable time."

Mr Glusica said that he and some colleagues of his late father had prepared a list of arguments against the court of inquiry report.

"These are only a few remarks among those from the report which give a clue about how hazardous the Mangalore runway is. Having that in mind, it is more than necessary to reopen the investigation, all in the aim of preventing another disaster from happening once more," he said. "We will forward a letter to Air India asking for an explanation as to why our father is being held responsible for the crash even though there were a lot of other issues that caused the accident."

Mr Glusica said he would take the matter to court.

"Our plan is to file a lawsuit against them in order to clear our father's name that they so intentionally wanted to abuse."

However, an Air India spokesman based in New Delhi said the court of inquiry's findings could not be disputed.

"He has been making these claims for a long time, and as an airline we have no comment except that the court of inquiry is a legal committee set up by the government and has done detailed work on the accident," the spokesman said.

The spokesman said Air India had contacted the family regarding the crash, despite Mr Glusica's denial that it had ever done so.

Mr Glusica said his father had been an employee of Air India since 2008, and that he had three children - himself and his two sisters.

One of the sisters, Merima, wrote a poem in honour of their father. She wrote:

"What can we do when winter comes with the beautiful snowflakes? Lonely, we will walk down the street, looking into your windows …

"The lights will be off. We know there's no one there since a long time ago. Only darkness … Tears in my eyes, that's all that will remain … May your wings be light, my angel."

"We miss our father so much," Mr Glusica said. "He was such a wonderful and caring human being. We love him."

frahman@thenational.ae