For the past two weeks, a team of professionals has been spraying chemicals on the lush grass around the airport’s two runways. Their aim: to kill insects and rodents that attract birds into the path of the aircraft.
“We are treating the area with chemicals to eliminate termites and rodents which attract birds,” said a spokesperson of Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL).
Bird hits are a common problem at the airport, especially during the monsoon when the grass grows tall. It is one of the reasons why MIAL concretised a wide surface adjacent to the two runways.
Simultaneously, officials are testing the friction levels of both the runways thrice a week to ensure that aircraft don’t skid once a pilot applies the brakes. “We are using the latest friction testing machine,” the spokesperson said.
According to air safety expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan’s study on wet runways, the distance required to land on a wet airstrip is 30% more than a dry one. “During heavy rain, this equation increases to 200%,” said Ranganathan, former member of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC), an independent safety watchdog formed after the 2010 Mangalore crash.
A culvert running beneath the tarmac that connects Mithi river to the Arabian sea has been widened to 47 metres, though the civic body’s recommendation was to widen it to 60 metres. MIAL has laid two additional culverts inside the drainage channel to reduce the chances of flooding.
The Shraddhanand nullah, which overflowed and flooded one end of the main runway last year, has also been desilted and widened.