Planes hovering over the Indira Gandhi International Airport due to air traffic congestion will now be a thing of the past.
At 6.18 am on Thursday, the 4.4-km-long third runway was finally opened for commercial operations –– a month after its inauguration and problems with delays, waterlogging and lighting malfunction.
The first commercial flight to land on the runway –– christened 11-29 –– was a Boeing 777-300 aircraft operated by British Airways (Flight 257 from London).
“It seems there won’t be any flight delays at IGIA anymore, at least due to air traffic congestion. The runway is of world class standard,” said a senior Air India official.
Officials of other airlines also expressed satisfaction with runway operations.
“Operations were running quite smoothly and since runway 28 is parallel to the new one, they can function independently and handle many more flight movements,” said an Air traffic control official.
“However, present air traffic is not too high. The real test for the new runway will be in December when we witness peak passenger traffic,” he said.
IGIA has India’s longest and Asia’s third longest runway. It has become the country’s only airport with three operational runways. It is capable of handling the largest aircraft category, i.e. Code F, which comprises of giants like the Airbus A380.
The runway is equipped with CAT IIIB Instrument Landing System at both ends, allowing aircraft to land when visibility is as low as 50m.
The runway is the first major project completed by airport operator Delhi International Airport (P) Limited (DIAL), which has been mandated to modernise the airport.
On Thursday morning, the British Airways aircraft was given a ceremonial water canon salute by fire tenders from the IGI Airport Fire Service on touching down.
The runway was operational till 1.10 pm in the first half. More than 100 flights landed till then, a DIAL spokesman said. The runway was reopened at 4.30 p.m.
The new runway will initially operate in tandem with the existing runway 10-28. Runway 28 will be used for all departure flights and runway 29 for all flight arrivals.
Airlines are facing a different problem due to the new runway. It is quite far from the domestic terminal and parking bays, and aircraft of domestic carriers will now have to taxi a long way after landing.
“Earlier the turnaround time –– time taken between a flight landing and taking-off –– was 40 minutes but has now increased to 1.20 hours,” said a Kingfisher official.
“Though airlines would spend more fuel while taxiing, they are saving much more fuel, as they won’t have to hover anymore while waiting for other aircraft to clear the runway,” said an airport official.