Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Slippery runway, debris make Chennai airport unsafe

Ongoing construction work that spills dirt and debris dangerously close to the runways and a common touchdown point at the intersection of the two runways gathering rubber from aircraft tyres have made the city airport unsafe.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on Tuesday served a show-cause notice to the airport for inefficient upkeep of "critical parts". In spite of inspections by Airports Authority of India, drains are left open near the runways, stones and sand from construction work lie in piles, posing a risk to planes.

A recent DGCA inspection following a series of incidents at other airports found that runway friction was poor at the touchdown point where the main runway intersects the second runway. "This means planes can skid off the runway. It is dangerous if a plane veers off the runway like it has happened at many airports," said air safety expert Mohan Ranganathan. "Stones near runways mean inspections are tardy. There cannot be open drains."

A pilot said debris can be dangerous in other ways too. "They can get blown onto the runway and get ingested into engines while planes make the take-off run," he said. An airport source said work contractors who leave debris are never pulled up.

The main cause for poor runway friction is rubber deposits from aircraft tyres not being removed regularly. This problem is more likely at the area where planes touch down. The airport regularly issues a ‘notam’ (notice to airman) about poor friction at the Guindy-end of the main runway.

As the second runway is short (only 7,000ft of the 9,000ft is usable), the 12,000ft main runway is used more, even by smaller planes. The main runway, however, goes under maintenance twice a week, forcing planes on to the shorter runway.

Construction work has been happening at the airport and on the airfield for two years to straighten a taxiway and build new ones. After pulling down an old passenger terminal and an old airport building, digging is on for laying the foundation for a new building. Drains at the airport were recently desilted and deepened as part of flood prevention measures.
10/07/19 V Ayyappan/Times of India
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