Like US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy also skipped Mumbai airport’s main runway. His plane used the smaller runway for both touchdown and take-off on Tuesday.
Sources at the Air Traffic Control told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the media that the presidential plane, a newly-modified Airbus A330-200 nicknamed ‘Air Sarko One’, landed on the secondary runway to avoid flying over the slums surrounding the airport. Obama’s Air Force One also used the runway citing the same concerns. An airport spokesperson confirmed this.
At 11am, the pilot of the presidential flight with the call sign ‘CTM 0001’ asked the Mumbai tower for permission to land.
Sarkozy’s visit did not have any impact on air traffic. At 10.58 am, a JetLite flight to Bangalore was the last scheduled before Sarkozy’s plane landed. Jet Airways’ flight 9W 2532 to Bhopal was the first to take off after Sarkozy’s arrival.
Air traffic was smooth also because the airport had suspended repairs on the main runway, which has remained shut for eight hours every day except Sundays since November 1.
According to protocol, the airport has to stop construction during VVIP visits because temporary entry passes for workers are prohibited.
The French President left the city at 4.08 pm. Airspace was blocked for less than 15 minutes.
The last flight movement before the VVIP departure was at 4 pm while the first afterwards was at 4.13 pm.