New, long runway poses problems
Delhi airport’s new 4.4 km long runway is large enough for the biggest aircraft to land smoothly, but air traffic controllers say its distance from the control tower is too long for comfort, reports Sidhartha Roy.delhi Updated: Aug 25, 2008 23:11 IST
Delhi airport’s new 4.4 km long runway is large enough for the biggest aircraft to land smoothly, but air traffic controllers say its distance from the control tower is too long for comfort.
The airport’s air traffic control tower is situated near the international terminal and bang opposite the primary runway (28/10). The secondary runway (27/09), which handles all landings at present, is not more than 500 metres away. However, the shortest distance between the ATC tower and the new runway (29/11) is over 2 kilometres.
“There is no problem in controlling air traffic on the new runway sitting from the tower because we have the best of radars and other equipment. However, it is very important that the runway is also clearly visible to the naked eye,” said a senior air traffic control official (ATCO) who did not wish to be named.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI), which provides air traffic services at the Delhi Airport, says the distance is not a huge problem. “We have state-of-the-art equipment to manage air traffic and the runway is visible from the tower,” the AAI spokesman said.
ATCOs, on the other hand, say radars may be helpful in spotting landing aircraft, but not animals that often stray into the runway. They say it is not only important for them to see the landing, take-off and taxiing of aircraft but also intrusions by animals and birds.
When a dog strayed into the runway minutes before the inaugural landing of an Air India flight on August 21, the ATC could not see it. “If the runway was clearly visible, we could have asked the pilot to wait for some time before landing. From 2 kilometres away, we cannot even see a buffalo, forget a stray dog,” he said.
The distance between the centre lines of the new runway and the existing main runway is 2.6 km. The ATC tower is about 2 kms away from the new runway.
“This is the shortest distance but the ends of the new runway is more than 4 kilometres away, including touchdown point for landing aircraft,” he said.
“The existing two runways can be seen even when visibility is up to 1,500 metres but the new runway cannot be seen below 2,500 metres,” he said. Though the ATC manages to function even in zero visibility conditions, they say it is not the ideal situation.
The distance would only be eliminated when the proposed new ATC tower comes up after 2010.
“There is a distance between the new and existing runways because a fourth runway is planned to be built between them. The new ATC tower would be in the middle of the four runways,” an airport source said.