Scary, thrilling.. the Mangalore airport experience
Scary, thrilling, makes one pray to the almighty for a safe landing - are some of the expressions that come to people who fly into or out of Mangalore's airport whose "table top" runway is perched on top of a hill and surrounded by deep gorges.
The view from the air as the plane approaches the airport at Bajpe, about 20 km from this bustling commercial and education centre, is a sight to behold.
Because of air turbulence, many times the planes drop height suddenly, making passengers gasp.
Children on board roar with joy or let out a gasp at the sharp fall.
Technically, the airport meets all the set domestic and international safety standards like the safety area around the runway.
Pilots too say it is not dangerous but does test their skills when landing and taking off, particularly during landings.
The runway is called the "table top" because of the deep gorges surrounding it.
The airport opened in 1951 as the Bajpe Aerodrome when then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru arrived on the maiden flight.
The airspace over the city and its vicinity is among the most turbulent in the country.
"Travel to Mangalore is actually scary. I have experienced some major turbulences and drops," said G. Ganga, who often takes a flight to the city from Chennai to visit pilgrim centres nearby, including Sringeri.
"At times, the way the aircraft rattles, it makes you feel really awkward - like weightlessness. You just grab your arm rest tight and pray," Ganga told IANS from Chennai.
The "risky nature" of the airport runway had made the authorities conduct aircraft landing rehearsals ahead of then president R. Venkataraman's visit to Mangalore in 1992, an official recalled.
The president visited Mangalore to participate in a function organised by Corporation Bank, which is headquartered here.
In May 2006, the airport got a second runway made of concrete and it is this runway -- 2,450 meters or 8,000 feet long - that is being used.
Last year, the government built a new terminal building at the airport, which was formally inaugurated by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa last week.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) dismissed suggestions that the "table top" airstrip was risky. It meets aviation norms, they asserted.
"There was enough landing area and over 90 meters of runway end safety (RES) area," an AAI official said.
About 10-12 flights operate daily at Bajpe airport, the official said.