DELHI- Kozhikode Airport, one of Kerala’s busiest airports, may no longer accommodate large aircraft such as A321s and B737s starting from August 1.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has given an ultimatum to the Kerala government regarding the transfer of land required to extend the current runway, citing safety concerns.
This development comes in the wake of a tragic crash in August 2020. where an Air India Express (IX) Boeing 737 overshot the runway, resulting in the loss of 21 lives.
The move aims to ensure the implementation of a runway end safety area (RESA). This acts as a buffer to prevent accidents during landing and takeoff.
Large Aircraft Restricted at Kozhikode Airport
In a letter addressed to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia expressed concern over the lack of progress in land transfer.
The state government and the Airports Authority of India had previously agreed that the land would be provided free of cost by the first week of July, with the latter bearing the cost of leveling.
However, the state government’s failure to take prompt action has compelled the ministry to set a deadline and push for compliance.
The issue revolves around the creation of the RESA, a safety measure recommended by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) following the 2020 crash.
The ministry highlights that the provision of the RESA would take approximately three years after the land is handed over to the Airports Authority of India.
To ensure the safety and well-being of passengers, the ministry is left with no choice. They have to proceed with curtailing the runway length unless the land is immediately transferred to the authority.
Runway Extension: Crucial for Safe Operations
The decision to curtail the runway length is crucial for passenger and aircraft safety. Mohan Ranganathan, a former instructor pilot specializing in wet runway operations training, emphasized this decision’s necessity, albeit overdue by ten years.
Scindia underlined the grave compromise on passenger safety caused by the absence of the RESA, a recommendation explicitly made by the AAIB.
The August 2020 crash was caused by non-adherence to standard operating procedures. Further underscored the importance of implementing safety measures.
The tragic incident involved an Air India Express Boeing 737, which overshot the runway during heavy rain and subsequently broke apart. Further, it resulted in the deadliest commercial aviation disaster in the country in a decade.
Kozhikode Airport is situated atop a plateau known as a tabletop runway. Which adds to the complexities of landing and takeoff due to limited space.
The current runway length stands at 2850m, and the curtailment aims to create a buffer zone. Although it will restrict the operation of larger aircraft.
The state government’s request to review the land requirement was accommodated, resulting in a revised projection of 14.5 acres. Additionally, discussions took place regarding the costs involved in preparing the land.
The ministry has repeatedly requested the state government, urging the prompt land transfer for the required RESA.
Despite assurances from the state government regarding the issuance of a land acquisition notification and availability of the required land by the first week of July 2023, the ministry finds itself compelled to impose a deadline.
TableTop Runway Challenges
Tabletop runways, such as the one at Kozhikode Airport, pose challenges due to limited RESA, leaving no room for error during landings.
These runways, including Kozhikode, Mangalore, Shimla, Kullu, Lengpui, and Pakyong, demand utmost precision during takeoff and landing due to their restricted space and potential optical illusions for pilots.
Kozhikode Airport, the third busiest airport in Kerala, serves numerous airlines. This includes Air India Express (IX), SpiceJet (SG), Oman Air (WY), Qatar Airways (QR), Air Arabia (G9), Etihad Airways (EY), and Fly Dubai (fFZ).
The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s decision to restrict large aircraft operations from August 1, 2023, is a proactive measure to ensure passenger safety and prevent potential accidents at the airport.
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