Air traffic congestion over Delhi will worsen once fog sets in, when pilots would insist on landing on the tried and
tested older runway than the new one built at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore.
The fog is denser around the second runway, called 29, than the rest of the airport complex. And there is a Shiv statue right under the flight path — and at the mouth of the runway — adversely affecting descent.
Also, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the air transport watchdog for India, has not given the runway a permanent licence because of technical deficiencies.
Runway 29 operates under six-monthly temporary permits, the last came earlier this week and a copy is available with HT.
“Pilots always prefer the old runway 28 to 29,” said Shailendra Singh, President of the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association. “Visibility is always comparatively poor at the new runway.”
Though Runway 29 is longer than 28 — 4.4 km to 3.4 km — the 62-foot Shiv statue delays touchdown, reducing the effective runway length available for landing to 3 km.
This may not be an impossible feat in normal times, but pilots are not comfortable trying it in foggy conditions.
“During dense fog most pilots are jittery about using Runway 29,” said a senior official of the Airport Authority of India, which runs this and all other state-owned airports in India.
That it’s equipped with a CAT IIIB landing system, which helps pilots land in zero-visibility conditions, doesn’t help its case much with pilots.
There are other problems then, as pointed out by DGCA in its letter granting Runway 29 another temporary licence.
It wants urgent attention on two technical issues to manage tarmac traffic better, specially in dense fog.
One is the Surface Movement Radar (SMR). It tracks aircraft moving around on the runway, either taxiing to a bay after landing or preparing to take off.
The two runways have separate radars now, but air traffic control needs feed from both in an integrated manner. “Tracking an aircraft for such a long distance (Runway 29 is 2.9 km from the disembarking bays) in dense fog without integrated SMRs becomes a safety issue,” said an air traffic official refusing to be identified.
The second are ground lights near the two runways. They too are controlled separately and the watchdog wants them integrated.