This monsoon, even if the visibility level is low on the runway at the city airport, your flight might not be diverted or even forced to abort landing.
To ensure that flights can land safely using the autopilot control in the cockpit even on gloomy days, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is correcting the glide angle on one end of the main runway.
Currently, city-bound flights operating during low visibility are either forced to abort landing or are diverted to a nearby airport.
“Currently, the glide slope is 0.3 degrees higher than the angle that gives the best runway view to pilots. We will make the correction before monsoon sets in,” said a senior AAI official requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
The AAI’s move is based on the recent recommendations made by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the apex body that frames safety rules for air travel globally.
The organisation had suggested a glide slope of three degrees for Mumbai airport's runway, making it more suited for most Boeing and Airbus manufactured aircraft used in India.
While the difference in the angle might appear negligible, it makes a huge difference to the pilot’s view of the runway, said air safety experts.
“With a three degrees glide angle the pilot can land using the autopilot control with his eyes closed,” joked a veteran Boeing commander with a private airline.
The AAI is also replacing concrete structures that house ground aids, which guide pilots landing a plane during low visibility. The new structures will be made of frangible (breakable) material.
“This is also being done in accordance to the International Civil Aviation Organisation's requirement. If a flight skids off the runway and crashes into these frangible huts there would be fewer chances of passengers getting hurt,” said the AAI official.
Both runways at the airport will be put to friction tests before showers hit the city. The tarmac’s friction level often decreases during monsoon. “Pilots might be advised to alter the way they brake on a wet runway,” said an airfield official, on condition of anonymity.