With fog, flight delays, cancellations, congestion and stranded passengers too have become a regular feature at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The new Rs 1,000-crore runway, which is CAT-III B compliant and allows flight landings even at 50-metre visibility, is proving to be of little help.
According to airport sources, the new runway remains highly “under-utilised” with both the air traffic control office and pilots preferring the old runway to the new one.
Dense fog on new runway
Due to vast open spaces and ongoing construction activity, fog remains dense towards the end-point of the 4.4-kilometre-long new runway. There have been instances when the Runway Visual Range (RVR) measuring machine installed at the far-end has tripped. “To land or take off in CAT-III B conditions (when the visibility is between 50-200 metres), the RVR readings are a must. We did not use the runway when visibility went down below 100 metres, as a machine that gives the exact visibility was not functioning properly,” a senior air traffic control official said.
The dust and sand makes visibility worse towards the end-point of the new runway.
Shiv Murti, a concern
Pilots across the domestic airlines avoid making CAT-III B landings on the new runway as the Shiv Murti on the Gurgaon side of the runway falls on the approach path and the pilots “do not want to take any chances” in poor visibility. The airport officials, however, said the new runway could not have been made operational without the approval of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). “If the ICAO has approved it that means there is nothing wrong with the runway,” said an airport official on condition of anonymity.
While the IGIA has two runways equipped with CAT IIIB Instrument Landing System, there is a dearth of pilots trained to use the system. In fact, some airlines do not even have compatible aircraft for CAT IIIB conditions.
Taxiway at a distance
Pilots of the domestic airlines prefer the old runway to land for its proximity with the domestic taxiway. The new runway is 2.6 km away from the main runway.