The new domestic terminal at the Chennai airport has finally opened, but there is yet another project that is awaiting clearance before it can begin functioning — the secondary runway.

The extension of the runway from 2,035 metres to 3,400 metres — covered under the modernisation project — which began in 2009 and ended in 2011, is still awaiting clearance from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Airport director H.S. Suresh said, “We need to acquire 15.67 acres of land, which we are unable to do because of resistance from the residents of Maxworth Nagar. Unless we get this land, the houses there will be obstacles on the runway. We will not be able to position the ILS system, without which we can’t start flight operations. Now we want the DGCA to allow us to operate with the available distance of 2.3 km, since we really need this runway,” he said.

This is the third time the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is going to submit the proposal to the DGCA for clearance, since the physical parameters of the runway have kept changing due to various reasons. “We hope to get clearance by the end of this month,” Mr. Suresh said.

Sources, however, say that it is very unlikely that the runway will be opened by the end of this month.

“There are some obstructions on the runway including houses, a water tank and mobile antennas. While some of these should be cleared, those that cannot be removed will be marked as obstructions and the pilot will be informed of them. It will take a minimum of two months for all of this to be done,” said an AAI official.

Once the obstructions are removed, the distance of the runway will once again be marked out and only then will the other minimum navigational aids have to be positioned.

While the primary runway is a parallel runway, the secondary runway is a cross runway and so, once commissioned, will act as an alternative runway for the airport.

At present, the primary runway is closed for maintenance for two hours, three days a week. During this time there are no flight operations at all, the official said.

“The secondary runway will marginally support the main runway and will have the capacity to handle about five aircrafts per hour. The main advantage is that in case of an emergency in the primary runway, flight operations can take place in the secondary one,” he added.

Only departures will be handled in the secondary runway, as, since it is a cross runway, there are safety concerns. “It will not be advisable to allow the secondary runway to handle both arrivals and departures, since any human error can lead to a mishap on it,” he said.

On whether the cross runway could be dangerous to the Chennai airport if the runway becomes short, Gurucharan Bhatura, an aviation expert said, “If the distance is well-defined and the pilot is informed of the path in advance, which is always done, there is no danger at all.” A runway is constructed only after proper planning.”

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