This winter, the new runway promises the Indira Gandhi International Airport some respite from the chaos of delayed and cancelled flights.
The airport’s 4.4-km-long third runway is equipped with CAT III-B Instrument Landing System (ILS) that helps compliant aircraft to land in zero visibility conditions. The runway was made operational on September 25 but the timings of usage were extended in phases.
On Friday, flight operations were carried out throughout the night on the new runway for the first time since it opened. On Thursday, operations were carried out till 11 pm and then stopped.
“The runway is now operational 24X7 and successful night operations is the first step towards using the runway during zero visibility conditions,” said a senior airport official.
While the runway is visible to pilots in the day, during night they completely depend on the runway lighting system and other guiding equipment to land. “The runway is now ready to operate during fog,” he said.
Surface movement radar and other equipment are being installed at the runway, which are needed for low visibility operations. The radar helps in guiding an aircraft from the runway to the parking bay after it has landed and vice versa.
“The radar and other equipment would be operational by November end,” said an Airports Authority of India (AAI) spokesman. The AAI handles air traffic at IGI Airport. “However, we may not necessarily need both the new and old runways during CAT III-B operations,” he said.
Though the new runway is equipped with CAT III-B ILS, its real benefit would be evident after a spell of dense fog lifts and visibility becomes normal.
“There are very few CAT III-B landings every year as most airlines don’t operate in such conditions. The real problem is the backlog of delayed flights once visibility improves and we face acute traffic congestion,” said an airport source.
Thanks to the new runway, the airport would be able to handle 65 flight movements per hour as compared to 45 movements at present. “We are not expecting any congestion this year,” the source said.
Airport authorities expect 42 flight movements even during the worst visibility conditions but that would depend on how many airlines operate in that condition. “Just having CAT III-B equipped runways wouldn’t help, airlines too should have pilots trained to use the system,” he said.
Smooth operations also depend on the functioning of the lighting system of the new runway, which malfunctioned a few times after operations started.
“The lighting system has been fully installed now. We are confident that it would function perfectly during fog season,” said a spokesman of Delhi International Airport Ltd.