People flying in and out of the city this winter could face delays as the airport operator will shut its secondary runway for more than three months starting from October 10.
The smaller runway would be shut for the construction of a new taxiway. “The new taxiway will help in reducing the time taken by pilots to vacate the runway,” said a Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson.
In February, the MIAL plans to shut the main runway for construction of a quick exit taxiway. Dates for the closure of the main runway have not been announced yet.
Officials added that several flights get diverted to the city airport during the winter months owing to dense fog at other airports. “Accommodating additional flights with just one runway could be a challenge,” said a senior air traffic control (ATC) official.
Though the main runway will be available for flight movement between October 10 and January 20, airport officials are wary that a mishap such as the recent incident of a Turkish Airline plane skidding off the runway could paralyse the airport. On September 2, a Turkish Airlines aircraft skidded off the main runway and got stuck in the mud making the airstrip un-operational for three days.
“If an incident such as the recent Turkish Airlines plane skid off happens again we will have no options but to shut the airport,” said a senior ATC official requesting anonymity. Abating the construction work on the secondary runway and preparing it for safe flight movement could take up to 48 hours, said the MIAL spokesperson.
After this construction work is completed, MIAL is scheduled to shut the main runway to make an adjoining quick exit taxiway. “The next few months will witness hectic construction activity because we have a deadline to increase flight movement from 30 to 48 per hour by June 2012,” said an airfield official requesting anonymity.
Being a land-locked airport Mumbai has no choice but to depend on multiple runway exits to reduce flight delays and increase capacity.
Other busy airports such as Delhi have plenty of space to construct parallel runways.