Flying in and out of Mumbai this winter could be a nightmare.
Especially on Tuesdays.
The Air Traffic Controllers have not only opposed the plan to shut down one of the two runways between October and January for upgrading, they have also written to the Airports Authority of India headquarters in Delhi saying that in case of an emergency the Mumbai airport may be shut for 72 hours.
The Air Traffic Controllers also said that they should not be held responsible for inordinate flight delays.
“It will be difficult to handle the pressure with only one runway operational,” said M.G. Junghare, general manager, Air Traffic Controllers .
His team handles about 680 takes offs and landings daily.
The secondary runway will be completely shut for three months and the main runway will be non-functional for six hours between 12 pm and 6 pm every Tuesday.
The overused runway needs urgent treatment to avoid bumpy landings and ensure smooth take offs.
It will be prepared to handle wear and tear for at least next 10 years.
Work will be carried out on the patch where both the runways intersect.
So airlines would have to use a shortened runway during this period.
Air Traffic Controllers officials fear that in emergencies like hydraulic failures of an aircraft while take off or landing — this happens at least twice a month on an average and it takes three to four hours to tow the aircraft away from the runway — delays will increase.
If it happens on a Tuesday before or after the six-hour shutdown, the delays will be even longer.
“We wont have an option but to divert flights to other airports,” said an Air Traffic Controllers official on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) however, is confident that there will be no inconveniences.
“The directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) has approved of the plan after checking all possible consequences,” said an MIAL spokesperson.
During these repairs, peak hour delays on a weekday, except Tuesday, are expected to escalate to 45 minutes on an average from the present 20 minutes.
The main runway will have to accommodate an additional 150 take offs, which are handled by the secondary runway daily.
The main runway already handles over 400 take offs and landings every day.