Monitor lizards and jackals on the runway ground flights at Delhi airport. What a zoo!
Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) prefer to watch Animal Planet at home. But there are days when they sit helplessly in the cockpit and control tower, waiting for animals and birds that have strayed on to the runway to move away. As happened at New Delhi’s IGI airport on Monday when some 100 flights were delayed after monitor lizards, jackals and birds took over the secondary runway.
Although animal welfare groups managed to rescue the lizards and chase away the jackals and birds, the delay had a knock-on effect, pushing back flights. This is not the first time IGI airport authorities sought help from voluntary organisations to clear animals from the airport premises as monkeys, jackals and peacocks sometimes disrupt flights during the monsoons. Of particular concern is the freshwater ponding that occurs near the runways after rains, attracting geese and ducks that drop in for a drink. The conditions in the surrounding townships also evidently attract birds. Ironically, this proves why one of the most complex phases of flight has nothing to do with flying: it is taxiing to and from the gate.
But then flight delays are probably the good news. For a menagerie on the runway is one of the worst nightmares of pilots and ATCs. For instance, on its landing roll, it’s nearly impossible for a 747 to avoid an animal on the runway — a risk that is multiplied manifold if an engine sucks in a bird while taking off. It is no use depending on surface-movement radar to detect small objects like cattle or birds on the runway. Airport authorities should work out plans to avoid animals incursions on runways. Tried-and-tested methods like deploying noisemakers or fireworks, along with fencing and animal population management will help them maintain clear safety zones at the airport.