Ruling against a report by its senior officials, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) on Wednesday decided to continue the helicopter operations from the secondary runway at the Juhu aerodrome.
The decision was taken at a meeting in Delhi, which was attended by chopper pilots and independent air safety experts who had unanimously opposed the move citing safety concerns. The panel will also review around 150 non-objection certificates for height clearance for buildings in the neighbourhood issued to developers.
"The meeting concluded that the helicopter operations will continue from the runway and the patches that require repairs would be redone," said a senior AAI official who attended the meeting.
In 2011, a team of AAI officials had submitted a report stating that the secondary runway is unsafe for operations and should be shut down. The report drew criticism from a section of air safety officials at Juhu and independent air safety experts.
Those against the move argued that the closure would mean that helicopters would have to operate from the airport's main runway, which was a safety concern owing to Juhu's proximity to the Mumbai airport.
"Choppers using the main runway at Juhu block the flight path of the aircraft using the Mumbai airport's secondary runway," said a helicopter pilot working with an oil sector undertaking company that conducts offshore sorties out of Juhu.
The protesters also alleged that the report to shut down the runway was driven by corrupt motive to benefit builders seeking height clearance in the vicinity. The argument stemmed from the fact that the report was cited to grant height restriction clearance in the vicinity, which is a prime area for realty developers.
Helicopter pilots said that the larger risks were from buildings violating the height restrictions that fall on the take-off and the landing paths. "Cancelling the NOCs of structures falling on the approach path is the least that can be done. We need some breathing space," said a chopper pilot with the private charter company in Juhu.
According to height restriction at Juhu, structures in the close proximity cannot be higher than 45 metres.