By bappaditya paul
KOLKATA airport management has decided to close down the airport’s main runway for a six month long repair exercise beginning 1 November, but the airlines have put a condition for this.
The Airlines Operators’ Committee (AOC) at Kolkata airport says that the authorities shall first have to waive the restriction from the A-Taxi Track located next to the secondary runway, before undertaking the repair exercise.
The restriction now in place, bars aircraft movements on the A-Taxi Track when another flight is landing on or taking off from the secondary runway. AOC maintains that unless the rule is relaxed, the flight schedule in Kolkata will suffer and this is the last thing the airlines can afford.
Kolkata airport is owned by the public sector firm Airports Authority of India.
According to Ashoke Srivastava, the deputy director of Kolkata airport, they are all geared up to start the resurfacing work for the 3,800 meter long main runway from 1 November and the work will take at least six months to complete.
Resurfacing primarily involves laying a fresh coat of bituminous over the entire runway and the exercise is overdue for Kolkata’s main runway by over four years now. Together with the installation of a CAT-III-B approach lighting system, the exercise is estimated to cost around Rs 86 crore.
“As a result of the resurfacing work, we will completely close down the main runway from 1 November – 20 November. After this, the runway will remain closed for 11 hours daily during daytime for the remaining of the six months,” Srivastava said.
“But this 11 hour closure that we have planned from 20 November might be extended to 24 hours a day if need arises. A decision will be taken on this on 17 November when we will review the work progress,” he added.
Flight operations to and from Kolkata airport will be maintained during this six month period on the secondary runway, which is a little shorter in length. But if a flight faces an emergency mid-air, it will be redirected to Bhubaneswar (if it is a domestic flight) and to Lucknow or Dhaka (if it is an international flight).
Maintaining that there would be no major flight disruptions due to the closure of the main runway, Srivastava said, at best there might be some rescheduling. “But this rescheduling will depend on the individual airlines and not us.”
But AOC chairman Sarvesh Gupta said that there was no question of them tweaking the flight timings.
“The winter schedule is already published and the airlines have sold tickets. Hence, there is no question of us making any changes to the flight timings. Instead, we have made it clear that the runway resurfacing work can begin only if the restriction on A-Taxi Track is waived during the period.”
Gupta added that he had made this very clear to the airport management during the last meeting with the AOC. “I had had asked them the write to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) seeking the relaxation, but they have been very tardy to do so till now.”