Air Force One, the Boeing 747 aircraft carrying US President Barack Obama, took Mumbai airport authorities by surprise when it landed on the secondary runway instead of the main runway on Saturday.
Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) had suspended repairs on the main runway for three days from November 5 for the visit.
American carriers such as Continental Airlines do not use the secondary runway, claiming the air traffic control tower is a hindrance for the pilot. But US Secret Service officials decided to land Air Force One on the smaller runway as that was the only way to restrict Obama’s stay on the airfield to below 15 minutes.
On Sunday too, Obama’s convoy took off for Delhi from the smaller runway.
“The secondary runway is closer to Apron L where the fleet of choppers were parked to ferry him to south Mumbai,” said a senior airport official.
It also enabled Obama to avoid flying over the slums adjoining the airport boundary.
The surprise move helped avoid major disruption in scheduled air traffic.
No air traffic delays were reported on Sunday. The last flight movement before Marine One’s touchdown was at 1.05 pm and the first movement after Air Force One’s take-off was at 1.23 pm, so airspace was blocked for less than 20 minutes as per the plan.