Air passengers are likely to face flight delays at Delhi airport with the closure of the main runway for repair from next month. The runway will only reopen six months later.
Private airport operator Delhi International Airport Ltd. will close runway 28 from April 8. The repair work is expected to be completed by September 20.
Though IGI has two other runways, runway 28 is its main warhorse and its closure would put pressure on runway 29. The airport has a smaller runway, 27, which was recarpeted a few months ago and is equipped with CAT I Instrument Landing System (ILS) that helps pilots land their aircraft even in poor visibility conditions.
“At 2.8 km, runway 27 is quite small and not preferred by international airlines as they operate bigger aircraft. Domestic carriers also prefer runway 28 to runway 29 as the latter is quite far from the domestic terminal,” said a senior Air Traffic Control Official (ATCO) on condition of anonymity.
The main runway 28 is close to the domestic terminal but domestic flights landing at runway 29, have to taxi an extra 9 km to reach the parking bays.
“We are handling about 700 flight movements (landings and take-offs) daily and with the main runway closed, it’s going to be tough. We’ll have to manage somehow,” he said.
Runway 28’s maintenance and recarpeting is long overdue. DIAL had wanted to shut it completely for seven-eight months in 2009, but with the fog season around the corner, that couldn’t be done.
“The last time it was recarpeted was in 2000 by Airports Authority of India. There have been some partial repair work in between but it now requires major repairs,” said a senior airport official.
“We need to completely recarpet the runway, repair the sub layer, change electrical systems, cables and other work,” he said. “With the kind of traffic load the runway faces, it needs repairs more frequently.”
With the Delhi High Court lifting the night curfew imposed on the airport’s third runway, following complaints of noise pollution from Vasant Kunj residents, the runway can now handle flights at night.
DIAL had requested the court to lift the ban so that runway 28 could be closed for repairs.