Less than a fortnight after helicopter operators stonewalled the closure of the secondary runway at Juhu airport citing safety concerns, an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official has mooted another proposal to convert the main runway into a heliport. HT has a copy of the proposal.
Experts suspect the decision might be influenced by developers, who got clearances to build high-rises in
the neighbourhood citing imminent closure of the secondary runway based on a suggestion in a report by JMD Negi, AAI’s executive director in 2011.
The AAI had scrapped this plan to shut down the secondary runway after a panel, comprising its senior official chopper operators and independent air safety experts, was convinced that operations on the main runway are unsafe when the Mumbai airport is using its smaller runway, as the landing paths of both runways are dangerously close.
Unlike an airstrip that has just one landing path, a heliport, which has a circular surface, can have multiple approach paths.
“They can use this argument to shut the runway. We will challenge this proposal because both runways are important for safe helicopter operations in Juhu,” said Captain Uday Gelli, president of Rotary Wing Society of India (RWSI).
Sources claim if the secondary runway continues to be operational, AAI would have to withdraw or at least review about 150 no-objection certificates (NOCs) given to builders in the vicinity. According to rules laid down by the air safety regulator, developers need a height clearance certificate from the AAI for construction around airports. Buildings close to the airport can’t be higher than 45 metres.
The minutes of a meeting on January 9, which discarded the closure of the secondary runway and concluded that NOCs will be reviewed, are yet to be released, said sources.
“Unless the minutes are released, there is no documentary evidence to stop the closure,” said a helicopter pilot.