As the first step to evacuate stranded passengers out of Chennai, national carrier Air India (AI) conducted a trial landing at Arakkonam naval air station using an empty Airbus A320 aircraft.
Officials said Arakkonam is about 70 km from Chennai. “As soon as the road from Chennai to Arakkonam clears, which is likely to be much earlier than the Chennai airport airstrip, we can commence operations,” said a senior AI official. As of now, Chennai airport has been shut down till December 6.
Sources said as per DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) rules, a trial landing is a compulsory requirement before passenger operations can begin at an airport.
“An A320 (VT AXA) was taken off flying and was used for the trial flight. Many airports near Chennai were considered before we zeroed in on Arakkonam. These included Tambaram Air Force base, where the airstrip was learnt to be unusable, and Tirupati where travel time from Chennai by road would have been very long,” he said.
Arakkonam, the official said, is a well-equipped airfield with modern navigation aids and one of the longest runways in the country.
This isn’t the first time, however, that AI has taken the lead during an emergency situation and had evacuated thousands of people, not just Indians, from Yemen earlier this year.
“As soon as we get the go ahead we will start operations to get out all stranded people and just those booked on AI,” said another official