Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Mumbai airport shutting down runways: It would have smarter to give early warning than causing last-minute chaos

No one can sensibly cavil over the need for runway maintenance. Runways suffer the usual wear-and-tear and need to be repaired. The partial two-days closure of the Mumbai airport for a pre-monsoon check is the right thing to do. If you do not have swift drainage and refresh the tiny grooves in the runway that sluice rainwater away, water gathers and the risk of aquaplaning and a possible accident are very high. Planes touching down can skim off the surface of the water without obtaining purchase very much like the stone flung on water scenario — like Qantas Flight 1 in Bangkok 1999 coming to land in rain.

Getting the runway into order before the monsoon is acceptable. The fact that it resulted in a chaotic cancellation of 120-plus flights and a ‘tailback’ effect that will now come into play as the backlog is cleared is not. This return to normal ops can take several days and "regretting the inconvenience" is not enough.
The repair-work is a highly technical undertaking and has to be done to rigorous specifications. They are not filling potholes. Ensuring the integrity of the strip and minimising surface tension calls for a certain exactness. As such the planning and the skilled manpower as well as transportation of specialised machines is called for and therein lies the rub. The closure windows should have been made public information weeks in advance. That way passengers could have reworked schedules and avoided bookings on these days rather than make frantic calls to carriers who, if they do answer, know precious little about what is going on.

Why was it kept a state secret? In November 2017, Delhi was closed in similar fashion but the alert was made public by media more than a week in advance. Private aerodrome company MIAL made this announcement of intent to close practically the same day instead of having given the adversely affected airlines a fair amount of time to rework its schedules:
11/04/18 Bikram Vohra/First Post