|In a setback to the Calicut airport’s development hopes, the Airports Authority of India’s (AAI) ambitious plan to extend the runway has been grounded by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) citing the unsafe characteristics of the table-top runway.|
The decision has come even as the AAI is planning to operate widebodied aircraft under Code E after soliciting suggestions from airline companies such as Emirates, Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines), and Air India that serviced Middle East destinations and Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha declaring in Parliament last week that the airport was being considered for operation of wide-bodied aircraft.
The AAI had drawn up a plan to extend the runway to 3,500 m from the existing 2,850 m after acquiring nearby land and filling the adjoining valley.
Sources said DGCA Director of Operations (Aero Standards) D.C. Sharma, in a letter to AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra, pointed out that the proposed runway strip was only 75 metres on both sides as against the mandatory 150 m. The International Civil Aviation Organisation that codifies the norms for international air navigation, mandates that the total runway strip for the operation of Code E aircraft should be 300 m. (A runway strip is the area surrounding the runway; it enhances the safety of airplanes which undershoot, overrun, or veer off the runway, and provides greater accessibility for fire-fighting and rescue equipment during such incidents.)
The letter said the AAI had not carried out any safety assessment for the project and that non-compliance and appropriate mitigation measures had not been suggested. “The proposed glide path inside the strip is a violation of ground surveillance radar,” it said. However, the AAI has been asked to resubmit a revised proposal in compliance with the civil aviation requirements with appropriate safety assessment and mitigation measures.
“We had submitted the compatibility study report to the AAI headquarters. The terrain is putting a spoke in the wheel of the development of the airport,” Airport Director J.T. Radhakrishna told The Hindu.
Mr. Radhakrishna said at least ₹1,000 crore would be required to extend the runway and another ₹5,000-10,000 crore to fill the valley. Around 120 lakh cubic metres of earth would be needed, he added.
However, he was confident that the new development would not hamper the proposal of the AAI to operate wide-bodied aircraft at the airport.
“We are going ahead with the work of the runway end safety area from January 15. Thus the existing runway length of the airport will be reduced to 2,700 m from 2,850 m,” the Airport Director said.