The runway length of Mangalore airport, which saw a major air crash a week ago that claimed 158 lives, will be increased from the present 8,000 feet to 9,000 feet to include a larger spillover area, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has said.
"In fact, we have already taken a decision to extend the runway from 8,000 ft to 9,000 ft. In that 9,000 ft, the spillover area and all such factors will be taken into account," the minister said.
He maintained that the government would have an "open mind" to implement any measure arising out of the lessons from the Mangalore air crash.
Replying to questions in Karan Thapar's 'Devil's Advocate' programme in CNN-IBN, Patel said the existing 8,000 ft runway was "fully compliant" with all the required guidelines and had a spillover area of 90 metres, which is the threshold area of the runway, based on its length.
"Though I am not an expert, but I can say with a sense of responsibility that if there are any mandatory requirements which are not fulfilled, not only in Mangalore but at any other airport in the country, these shall be corrected."
To a question on having an approach radar at Mangalore, he said it was "already being contemplated. Whatever is required will be done".
Observing that the Mangalore runway was earlier 6,000 feet in length, he said the risks of flying the same type of aircraft was larger. The present one was a new runway, he said.
"Whatever has to be learnt from the air crash and whatever has to be improved upon will be done," Patel said.
Soon after the crash, he said he had chaired a high-level meeting of officials and a Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC) was set up to advise Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on all aspects relating to safety.
Asserting that "Indian aviation is safe", Patel said "aviation per se can only be either 100 per cent safe or zero.... Aviation is not a game of chance .... Any error can lead to what happened in Mangalore," he said, adding that the inquiry would establish what led to the crash.
Asked whether the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had downgraded Indian aviation sector's safety record, he said it was "absolutely wrong. The ICAO and the FAA both have certified that (aviation in) India is 100 per cent safe."
While disagreeing with the suggestion that the DGCA rules and procedures were "stand alone" and did not match the international norms, Patel said the regulatory body would examine all issues in totality and take necessary decisions.
"Let us not scare people away. These are difficult times but let us not make it an issue where people lose faith in our own system," he added.