Friday, May 28, 2021

Pilots slam call to keep airports open in cyclone

Mumbai: The central government decision to keep airports of Mumbai and those in Gujarat operational till the very last moment during cyclone Tauktae has met with criticism from the Indian pilot community, which applauded the way cyclone Yaas was handled.

"Closing the airports of Kolkata and Bhubaneswar well in advance are examples of good and timely decision-making which benefits all as safety is paramount as aircraft are not designed to fly in such unforeseen drastic cyclonic storms,’’ said a senior A320 commander.

On Tuesday night, after an update on weather condition it was announced that the Kolkata airport and some other airports along the eastern coast will remain shut for 11 hours from 8.30 am upto 7.45 am on Wednesday.

Contrast that to the morning of May 17 when the Mumbai airport remained open and an announcement to suspend flight operations came only after strong cyclonic winds had arrival flights into Mumbai divert to other airports. Even as cyclone Tauktae raged about 150 kms off the coast of Mumbai over the Arabian sea, it was announced that the Mumbai airport will remain shut from 11 am to 2 pm.

"Hundreds of passengers were left stranded, not only in Mumbai, but other airports like Delhi, Kochi, Bangalore etc as they waited for the Mumbai airport to reopen at 2 pm,’’ said an official from a low cost airline. ``But we in airlines knew there was no way the airport could open at 2 pm as the weather report showed that Mumbai airport would remain affected by severe cyclonic waves for most part of the day. However since airport closure was announced only for 3 hours, airlines had to wait and watch,’’ he said. Then the closure was extended to 4 pm, then again to 6 pm and then 8 pm and finally at 10 pm, the airport opened again.

28/05/21 Manju V/Times of India

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