Fliers in Patna can now heave a sigh of relief. For, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has finally issued aerodrome licence to the Jai Prakash Narayan International airport here.
Though essentially a technical formality, the grant of licence broadly means that the DGCA has certified the airport safe for operations. The Patna airport caters to 21 daily scheduled flights, which will go up to 24 in the summer schedule from March 27.
The DGCA had introduced the system of issuing licences to airports in India in 2006. However, since the Patna airport did not conform to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) norms, the DGCA had withheld its licence. The DGCA had even classified it among 13 critical airports in India.
Airport director RS Lahoria said: “We worked on the deficiencies pointed out by the DGCA and addressed them in the last nine months. We sent the action taken report some 2-3 months ago and the DGCA’s approval finally came through.”
Among the many deficiencies the DGCA had pointed out were lack of full-scale mock drill exercise, pruning of trees on runway-25 (zoo end), basic strip (ideally should be 150 metres from the centre-line of runway, but the Patna airport has sought exemption) and runway end safety area (a 90x90 metre sand pit at the end of runway to stop a plane from overshooting the runway).
The Airports Authority of India was also tasked with removing mobile towers, which came in the approach funnel of the runway. Besides, it also had to set up runway visual range (RVR) equipment (gives electronic reading of runway) and extend the approach light from 220 metres to 420 metres. Together, these will help reduce the minimum visibility, which is 1200 metres now, required for flight operation, reducing flight delays, especially during winters.
The Patna airport was also mandated to remove rubber deposits on runway, to make the coefficient of runway friction efficient for aircraft safety. An Alliance Air jet had crashed in Patna in July 2000, killing more than 50 people on board.
Safety audits undertaken by the DGCA thereafter had declared it unsafe for operations. The DGCA had even threatened to re-notify the runway length and restrict air operation to smaller aircraft like turbo jets.