Air passengers flying out of Mumbai are likely to witness delays as the city airport’s main runway will be shut for eight hours every day between January 20 and June 1.
The partial closure (between 9 am and 5 pm) will be carried for the construction of a new rapid exit taxiway to improve the runway’s efficiency.
“The main runway will be shut from 9 am to 5pm. The period was chosen to avoid delays during morning and evening peak hours,” said the Mumbai International Airport Limited spokesperson.
The airport witnesses peak flight movement between 6 am to 9 am and 6pm to 10 pm because frequent fliers travel during this period. Airport officials said that the closure could delay operations because unlike the main runway, the secondary runway is not equipped with navigational aids critical during low visibility flight operations.
“Although Mumbai does not witness low visibility except during the monsoon months, occasional smog could disrupt services,” said an air traffic control official requesting anonymity. Secondly, in case of an airfield emergency the airport could be grounded for hours. On September 2, 2011 a Turkish Airline plane skidded off the main runway and got stuck in the mud close by, making the airstrip unusable for three days. “A similar incident could lead to massive flight cancellations,” said an airport official requesting anonymity.
The airport’s secondary runway, which was shut since October 10, opened for operations on Thursday evening. The secondary runway was shut for the construction of a similar taxiway. “The new taxiway will enable pilots to vacate the smaller runway faster,” said an ATC official.
The construction activity is part of the airport’s long-term plan to increase the number of take-offs and landings from 30 per hour to 48 per hour. The plan to improve runway efficiency by adding more taxiways was approved last year based on a study by NATS, a UK-based agency that has helped airports such as Gatwick in London nearly double its capacity.