It has been a fortnight since Delhi airport’s new runway was inaugurated but, plagued by teething troubles, it seems doubtful that it would be opened by its latest September-end deadline.
Airport operator Delhi International Airport (P) Limited (DIAL) has been shying away from announcing a formal date for opening the runway. Highly placed sources said the implementation date was August 28.
Officials had assured to start it by first week of September but are now looking at the end of this month.
Highly placed sources said a part of the new runway’s lighting system caught fire and was slightly damaged.
“The lighting system was already not functioning after rainwater entered its circuits. The water was pumped out but fires like these would further delay the opening of the runway,” a senior airport official said.
Admitting the incident, DIAL said that it would not delay the project.
“There was a spark in one of the lights of a taxiway of the 3rd runway. However, there was no damage and it will not impact the commercial operation date,” a DIAL spokesman said.
The incessant rainfall last month dampened the airport operator’s plans after the Dwarka end of the runway got waterlogged.
As the airport didn’t have an outlet to discharge rainwater, it became a headache after it started attracting birds.
After an Air India aircraft made inaugural landing on August 21, three more commercial aircraft landed as part of trial runs.
The trial runs, however, delayed normal operations on the existing runways.
“The trial runs were made on an ad-hoc arrangement but they led to delay in normal flight operations. We are having a re-look at the operating procedures so there are no problems once the new runway opens for operation,” an airport official said.
Though the operator admitted that the trial runs led to delays in normal flight operations from other runways, it said efforts were made to minimise the delays.
A DIAL spokesman said trial flights were separated from regular traffic on a tactical basis.
“The results of these trials were very positive. There are no changes to the navigation equipment or procedures,” he claimed.
The spokesman, however, didn’t comment on why the trial runs were stopped after four landings.
“The runway cannot be opened before September 25 or perhaps even October,” said an airport official.
The new runway is awaiting a safety audit by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
According to airport sources, calibration of some equipment is also yet to be done.