Fliers' wait over as Delhi airport congestion clears

From April 1, the AAI has started using two parallel runways, report Archis Mohan and Sanjeev K Ahuja.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2006 18:34 IST

Frequent fliers rate it to be the most exasperating aspect of flying into or out of Delhi -- waiting endlessly on the ground or in the air before flights get clearance from the Air Traffic Control to land or take off.

Well, the torture has just ended.

From April 1, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has started using two parallel runways. Result: the waiting time is down to within five minutes -- that is, a flight is cleared to land within minutes of it reaching the Delhi airport. Similarly, aircraft do not have to wait interminably for their turn to take off.

These past 11 days, flights have landed or taken off every 90 seconds. "We're handling up to 40-45 landings/take off every hour," said AAI spokesperson R. Pathak. "This is an improvement from barely 25 to 30 flights that could operate in an hour earlier on the single runway."

There is more good news. By May-end, the taxiway being constructed between the two runways will be ready. Also, the AAI is constructing seven rapid exitways. "This will ensure the optimum use of the runways and enable us to operate a flight every minute -- that is, 60 flights an hour," said an AAI official.

The Civil Aviation Ministry had anticipated increased congestion at Delhi airport after its open sky policy. During the past winter, the airport's single runway had been unable to bear the burden of added domestic and international airlines. Delays were common.

"The ministry's Roy Paul Committee had studied the problem and submitted its report in May 2005. Work had been afoot on a Rs 40-crore plan ever since," said an official.

A cut in waiting time is good news for airlines, particularly the domestic budget ones. "We save on expensive turbine fuel. It also reduces stress on pilots," said an official of a private airline.

Currently, the simultaneous use of the runways is restricted to peak hours. Once the traffic increases further, the runways can be used round the clock. The only objection to the plan has been from the ATC Guild, which wanted the taxiway to be ready first.

A few minor hitches remain. One, as an official with a private airline said, the simultaneous use of the runways has been intermittent and not a full success till now.

Also, since the two runways converge with each other, collisions cannot be ruled out. The AAI, however, says it has taken elaborate safety precautions and installed sophisticated gadgets.

First Published: Apr 12, 2006 01:40 IST