Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Experts Question Increase In Runway Length At Mangalore Airport

AWIN First Jun 01 , 2010
Neelam Mathews mathews.neelam@gmail.com

As India’s Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel announced the runway at Mangalore Airport would be increased from 8,038 to 9,000 ft. to include a large spillover area, experts were already questioning this solution to increase the safety of the tabletop airport.

The airport was the scene of an Air India Express crash on May 22, when a Boeing 737-800 overshot the runway on landing, falling into a ravine, killing 158 onboard.

The gorge must be filled on either side with mud and stones, a risky proposition given the nature of soil in the region that is prone to heavy monsoon rains. This could compromise the structural integrity, an airport official said.

“If you have tons of money, you can do it. From the pilot’s point of view, it would be better to have a longer runway,” says a safety expert.

New information has been released by think tank Environment Support Group (ESG), which has been fighting since 1997 against the building of the runway. “There was no feasibility study conducted even after they started building it in 2004. We were told they [Airports Authority of India] would look at it...It is like an architect presenting his design after the building is completed,” Leo F. Saldanha, coordinator, ESG told AviationWeek.

“Nobody seems to care. The runway should have been constructed on the northern side of the old runway as it met with ICAO standards, but they did not want to dislocate the landed gentry,” adds Saldhana. The length would have been 12,000 ft. and the “width would not have been compromised.”

Saldhana says ICAO’s Annex 14 standards have been violated. The 240m Runway End Safety Area runway length was insufficient. Pilots recommend 300m.

He adds that the national building code, which clearly states there should be no tall structure around the airport, has also been violated since there is a 90 meter-high refinery close by. “If instruments fail and the pilot has to do a visual landing, a smoke filled sky does not help,” he adds.

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