All flights from the city remained grounded for the second consecutive day on Wednesday due to low visibility. Passengers could be seen shuttling between different enquiry counters to know about the status of flights. Meanwhile, trains were also running late by several hours and one of them was delayed by 25 hours. The morning Shatabdi reached the city station only at 5 pm against its scheduled time of 11 am.
Despite having the required instrument for making hassle-free landing and take off at the airport, the authorities are still struggling to make it operational. Reason: The Air Force station where the Instrument Landing system (ILS) is placed is yet to upgrade it to the required level.
With the runway lying in the Air Force land, its upkeep and maintenance lies with the IAF. The civil airport authorities have no clue when the lighting at the runway would be improved by the Air Force authorities.
The ILS had been non-operational due to improper lighting for the past three years now.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had, in 2010, got installed the CAT III-type ILS and since all flights are controlled by the Airport Traffic Controller (ATC), the landing system has been placed on the Air Force Station's land. Though the CAT III-type ILS has been installed, it is still functioning on the mechanism of CAT I-type.
The flights used to face delay or cancellation due to weather conditions only during the winters. All flights had to be cancelled on Wednesday because of low visibility. The officials inform that there was haze and suspended dust particles in the air, which made operations impossible despite using the ILS, as the visibility was restricted to 700 metre.
"The visibility is quite low and we got a message from the ATC that flights cannot be made operational, following which we gave a call to cancel all flights. The ILS is there but the required lighting to operate the same is unavailable because of which the instrument cannot be used in such low visibility," says airport director HS Toor.
Passengers of different trains were also a harried lot as the trains were late by even 25 hours. While the Howrah-Kalka mail was running late by 23 hours, Unchahar Express was behind schedule by 25 hours. The morning Shatabdi from Delhi was late in reaching city by about five hours. Also, the evening Shatabdi that leaves city at 6:15 pm was delayed by over two hours.