Airport is adequately safe, but extension of the runway will make it safer, says NIT-K director

Additional safety steps had been introduced at the Mangalore airport after the last year's tragedy in which 158 people were killed when Dubai-Mangalore Air India flight overshot the tabletop runway and plunged into a valley.

The safety zone – the additional space between the runway and the cliff meant to act as outside force to bring aircraft to halt in emergencies – has been improved with addition of gravel and the strengthening of the retaining wall in the last couple of months.

This was stated by A.U. Ravisahnkar, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, NITK, at a press conference on Thursday. He said the improved safety zone would ensure that aircraft could come to a halt even if the engines failed while landing. Although the runway did have a safety zone prior to the accident, it did not have the gravel. Apparently, he meant that the gravel would ensure that the aircraft was brought to a halt before reaching the end of the safety zone. Additionally, he said the safety zone had “up slope”. This would serve as an added force to bring the speeding aircraft to halt.

‘Safe, technically'

NITK Director Sandeep Sancheti said many airports across the word had tabletop runways. In India, airports in Kozhikode, Legpui (Mizoram), Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), and Leh (Laddakh) had such runways. Although the Mangalore airport was adequately safe technically, extension of the runway would make it safer. “It is like having a wider road,” he said.

Prof. Sancheti said a two-day workshop on tabletop airports and safety aspects would be held at NITK on October 29 and 30.

He said the workshop, jointly organised by NITK and Mangalore Airport Diamond Jubilee Celebration Committee, would attempt to alley the fears in the minds of people about airports with tabletop runways.

It would suggest design features to make such airports safer.

Extending the runways, either by resorting to concrete structure or by filling the valley, would be debated in the workshop. More than 10 experts would present papers and a couple of pilots would share their experiences in landing at tabletop runways, he said.

Sharad Dogra, Chief of Training Air India Express, Mumbai, will speak on flight operations to tabletop runways, Prof. Ravishankar will speak on geometric design of airports, D. Devaraj, Regional Executive Director, Southern Region, Airports Authority of India, Chennai, will speak on tabletop runways and safety aspects, while M.R. Vasudeva, Director, Mangalore Airport, will speak on tabletop runways and operations.

Mangalore Airport Diamond Jubilee Celebration Committee chairman N. Thejomaya said the committee had proposed to hold a Kabaddi tournament for men and women in the second week of December at Nehru Maidan and a meet of exporters on December 3.

The latter would be organised in association with the New Mangalore Port Trust.

  • The addition of gravel and strengthening of the retaining wall are major changes
  • The gravel would ensure the aircraft is brought to halt before reaching the end of safety zone