Built at a cost of Rs. 450 crore, it may be opened for operations in about 15 days

Nearly three years after its completion, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday cleared the secondary runway of Chennai airport for operations.

The runway built at a cost of Rs. 450 crore may be opened for operations in about 15 days, according to officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

Airport director H.S. Suresh said the extended runway would run to a length of a little over 2,300 metres.

He added that the runway would make it possible to conduct maintenance for the primary runway without suspending flight operations.

As part of the Rs. 2,000-crore Chennai airport expansion, the secondary runway was to be extended to 3,400 metres.

After such a huge investment and delay, it was unfortunate that only about 2,300 metres would be available for operations, an AAI official said.

A government audit noted that there was a loss of interest to the tune of Rs.190 crore over the secondary runway.

Experts have constantly raised concern over safety issues.

While the AAI officials carried out a safety assessment sometime back, a Non-Destructive Test (NDT) was done by the College of Engineering, Guindy.

Capt. Jacob Selvaraj, former chairman of the Madras Flying Club, said it would help in reducing congestion at the airport.

At a time, two aircraft could depart within a gap of a few minutes.

It would also help in reducing waiting time for aircraft leading to reduced fuel consumption.

Capt. D. Balraman, a senior pilot with Jet Airways, said the secondary runway opening would not be of any great help as the Instrument Landing System was not in place. In the absence of technical facilities, the Air Traffic Control Tower operators would have to adopt non-precision methods during landing or take-off. Wide-bodied aircraft such as Boeing 777 would not be able to use the runway.

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