In June, a Blue Dart cargo flight broke 20 lights on both sides of Mumbai airport’s main runway during take-off.
Investigations done by the aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, revealed that the absence of the centerline lights that guide pilots to align their planes to the centre of runway was one of the reasons behind the Blue Dart incident.
Mumbai International Airport Ltd. (MIAL), the Mumbai airport operator, aims to eliminate several such safety concerns by the end of July 2011 with a massive runway repair exercise that begins next week.
From November 1, the airport’s main runway will be shut for operations between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Saturday for eight months.
The airfield will resemble a massive construction site with 2,500 workers and 500 vehicles. Last year, a similar repair exercise was held for the airport’s secondary runway from October 1, 2009 to April 7, 2010.
However, while the repair work is likely to enhance operations by next year, passengers are expected to face massive delays for the next eight months especially after winter sets in.
Foggy days are likely to be extremely chaotic because the secondary runway is not equipped with the Instrument Landing System (ILS), a ground-based aid that guides approaching aircraft using a combination of radio signals and many cases high intensity lighting arrays.
Unlike the secondary runway that was dug up to the foundation and rebuilt last year, the primary runway will be widened from 45 metre to 60 metre and will get a thick layer of tar to smoothen the crumbling surface.
After the widening, the tarmac can handle jumbo planes such as the Airbus 380. According to the three-phase plan construction workers will lay at least 1,200 tons of asphalt in patches from the runway end facing Kurla every day.
“The runway would not need any major repairs for 10 years after this exercise,” said a MIAL spokesperson.
The main runway that handles about 70% of the 700-odd daily take offs and landing is nearing the end of its life cycle, he added. The airport operator will also upgrade the runway lighting and the airfield ground lights. For instance, the centerline lights that are missing right now would be installed.
“The upgradation is extremely pivotal for smooth operations,” said president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), India. ALPA is part of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots representing one-lakh pilots across the world.