Sunday, January 30, 2022

Bumpy runway, poor lights: Pilots flag areas of concern at Kolkata airport

Kolkata: Barely meeting the minimum serviceable norms on runway lights, uneven patchwork repairs in the secondary runway, straying of animals onto the runway during monsoon, waterlogged parking bays — pilots’ list of complaints about the operational area at Kolkata airport is a long one.

While some issues like proper resurfacing of the primary runway has been addressed, most of the other problems remain unresolved.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recently slapped a Rs 20 lakh fine on the airport operator, The Airport Authority of India (AAI),for the lapses. This is the steepest fine imposed till date.

An audit carried out by DGCA some months back observed improper maintenance of the runway, electrical lighting and the foreign object debris programme. It then issued a show-cause notice and levied the fine after the replies were not satisfactory. Kolkata airport officials said it had appealed to the regulator against the fine and pointed to discrepancies in the assessment.

“The DGCA rates airport runways with points ranging between 1 and 9. We received a rating of 5. We have appealed against the rating and the penalty and a committee is set to revise the assessment this week,” said an airport official.

According to pilots, the airport has been maintaining the minimum requirement for runway lights but rarely are all runway lights functional. “If the minimum requirement is that 80% lights have to be in operation, only that is maintained. The rest remain out of operation at all times,” said a pilot.

While the primary runway condition is in fine condition now, a captain said there had been occasions in the past when the runway appeared slippery during rain due to rubber deposits. It reduces friction and affects the braking of aircraft on touchdown. The secondary runway is bumpy and potholed. In places where patchwork repairs have been carried out, the new surface has not been properly integrated with the older one.

30/01/22 Subhro Niyogi & Tamaghna Banerjee/Times of India

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