The airport will now be available for use throughout the day

Three years after waiting for clearance, the secondary runway of the Chennai airport finally saw two aircraft landings on Saturday — an Air India flight from Port Blair and a Jet Airways flight from Goa around 2.40 p.m. and 4.15 p.m. respectively.

Airport Director H.S. Suresh said: “Now that the secondary runway is operational, the airport will be available for use throughout the day. We will take flight operations on this runway even when the primary runway is closed for maintenance.”

Closed for maintenance

As per schedule, when the primary runway was closed for maintenance on Saturdays (and Tuesdays) between 2.30 and 4.30 p.m., the operations began on the secondary runway.

For years, after the secondary runway was closed for extension, there have been no flight operations at the airport during this period.

Safety concerns

Time and again, aviation experts have raised safety concerns over the operationalisation of this runway.

Only two weeks ago the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) gave approval for commencing operations on this runway after a few safety assessments, including the one conducted in March.

The extension of the secondary runway, which had been done as part of the airport expansion, cost the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at least Rs. 450 crore.

Length stands at 2,200 metres

Though the proposal was to extend it up to 3,400 metres, its available length, despite a hefty investment, the runway stands at nearly 2,200 metres now.

Also, a government audit noted that owing to the delay in the commissioning of the runway, there was a loss of interest of Rs.198 crore.

“In my opinion, this runway may be used only during good weather conditions. Plus, we don’t have the Instrument Landing System (ILS) in place. Full-fledged operations may not start immediately,” an AAI official said.