Friday, December 02, 2022

Bengaluru: Defunct devices render operations risky on Kempegowda International Airport runway

Bengaluru: In a shocking case of apathy, crucial weather equipment that enables safe aircraft landing on the north runway of Kempegowda International Airport during bad weather and poor visibility has been defunct for months, despite numerous complaints to the meteorological department at the terminal.

Apart from posing a grave safety risk during the landing of flights, the situation has forced closure of the runway during foggy conditions like on Wednesday morning, when the airport's entire operations had to be switched to the south runway, causing a congestion of aircraft and delaying flight operations.

Sources at KIA said the runway visual range (RVR) devices, which are part of the instrument-landing equipment CAT I installed on the north runway, have remained defunct for many months, making the runway extremely dangerous and unusable for landing aircraft during dense fog and heavy rain.

"Because of the handicapped state of the north runway during adverse weather, flight operations are completely shifted to the south runway, making it congested with flights. This was what unfolded on Wednesday morning as the foggy conditions forced the airport authorities to close the north runway. The south runway took all the load till visibility returned, causing flight delays and a diversion," a senior airport official told TOI.

The weather instruments, including the RVR and CAT at Bengaluru airport, are handled by the India meteorological department (IMD), which has an exclusive office at KIA.

Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) representatives and other airport authorities, including the air traffic control, have alerted IMD officials numerous times about the need to fix RVR equipment on the north runway. "During clear conditions, RVR instrument is immaterial for landing and takeoff but it is crucial during bad weather. With winter here, it is the need of the hour to fix the RVR to aid pilots for landing on the north runway," a BIAL source said.

The south runway, which is CAT II and CAT III compliant, has upgraded RVR capable of aiding landings during extreme fog and poor visibility.

Flight operations are safe on the north runway when the RVR reading is 550m or above, while the south runway can facilitate aircraft landing with RVR readings as low as 50m and takeoff at 125m, the source said.

Usage of the south runway results in more fuel consumption as it is longer and farther away from the terminal.

When TOI reached out to the IMD office at Bengaluru airport, staff confirmed that the RVR equipment on the north runway is non-functional and airport authorities are advised to use the south runway during fog. Senior officials of IMD couldn't be reached but sources in the department said the matter is under process and new instruments have arrived and are awaiting installation.

02/12/22 Petlee Peter/Times of India

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