Thursday, September 21, 2017

How Air India engineers braved the rain to restart Mumbai airport in 24 hrs

New Delhi: More than 90 people worked for 24 hours in incessant rains to pull out the SpiceJet aircraft weighing 41 tonnes that kept the primary runway of Mumbai airport shut and disrupted operations at the country’s second busiest airport.
“The advantage was that our aircraft recovery kit is based in Mumbai itself, so our men were on the ground quickly,” said H R Jagannath, chief executive of Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL), which carried out the operation.
It was not a new incident for the team as AIESL has carried out similar operations, including retrieving a Turkish Airlines A-330 which kept the Kathmandu Airport shut for more than 48 hours.
“Air India is the custodian for the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and a small section of the Gulf for the International Airlines Technical Pool, known as IATP. Member airlines pay us for carrying out such operations,” Jagannath said.
IATP is a convention of airlines started 59 years ago to promote safety in the skies. It is a not-for-profit, independent and non-political global organisation. Among the 101 international airlines members which pay a premium to IATP are Jet Airways, Lufthansa, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and, of course, Air India.
But Mumbai rains worsened the condition.
Before work could start on the site, it had to be ensured that the condition of the ground is such that it is able to withstand the weight of the aircraft. “In Mumbai, incessant rains made the job more challenging as it was making the ground softer, we had to ensure ground was levelled using gravel, stones and sand,” he said.
This was simultaneously being carried out along with developing the recovery plan. Aircraft Recovery Plan (ARP) is developed based on the local conditions, along with discussions with the airport operator and the airline operator. An airport operator would want the aircraft to be removed as soon as possible to normalise operation but the airline’s concern will be to minimise the damage to the aircraft. Airports like Mumbai which operate with a single runway are faced with the difficult challenge of obtaining equipment via ground transportation, which significantly delays the receipt of the critically needed equipment and causes longer runway closure times.
"We must continue to chip away at the cost factor. My approach is to take one important initiative a week in this regard. It may be for as low as INR10-20 crore (USD1.5 – 3 million)," Bansal said. The Chairman is also confident of securing government-backed short-term loans of INR30 billion (USD466 million) to settle outstanding bills and put the carrier in a position to renegotiate terms.
Bansal did however rule out selling off Air India's slots. "Slots are our biggest assets. We don't want to surrender any slots," he said.
21/09/17 Arndam Majumder/Business Standard