The Delhi airport has the world's sixth largest terminal, handles largest number of flights in the country and is the only airport in the country with three runways that remain operational even in zero visibility. There is, however, one crucial area of safety where it lags — bird hits.
Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport tops the list of bird hits at Indian airports every year with more than one such incident recorded every week. When hit by a bird, an aircraft can be damaged, including engine failure.
Though the number of bird hits — 66 in 2010 — has not increased in the last three years, the private airport operator, Delhi International Airport Ltd. (DIAL), has been unable to control the menace.
"It's a dangerous situation and we are concerned that the numbers are not coming down," said directorate general of civil aviation chief EK Bharat Bhushan.
"We have asked DIAL to take the required measures but the area outside the airport, where butcher shops operate, have to be controlled also," he said.
Incidents of birds hitting aircraft usually occur during landing and take-off. There is not much impact if a bird hits the plane's body but when it gets sucked inside the engine it causes engine failure, which can ground the aircraft.
In July 2008, an Air Mauritius flight caught fire and passengers had to be evacuated after it suffered a bird hit at IGI airport. Birds are attracted to worms and rodents near the airfield.
Measures taken by DIAL to curb this menace include cutting the grass near the airfield below six inches, application of spikes and gel to prevent birds from roosting, covering of drains with wire meshing and use of runway sweeping machines on runway and taxiways to curb insects moving on to the surface and attracting birds.
DIAL has also deployed 96 bird chasers who burst crackers from dawn to dusk on all three runways and has engaged Wildlife SOS (NGO) team to trap, re-locate wild and feral animals.