Bird menace, runway issues among safety risk of premier airport

An aircraft about to touch down on the Vallakkadavu side of the runway of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.   | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

Bird menace, obstacles on both ends of the approach path of runway, lack of basic strip, and inability to use the entire 3,398-metre runway of the State’s premier airport in Thiruvananthapuram for flight operations have come into limelight at a time when safety of airports is under scanner.

The bird menace that is primarily due to the dumping of waste along the NH-66 bypass, fish markets, and illegal slaughter houses thriving in the vicinity of the airport is one of the potential hazards to aircraft and the biggest risks the pilots face while approaching from the Kovalam side via Muttathara to land at the airport.

“Though bird hits continue to be a menace, constant vigil by the bird scarers and a slew of initiatives by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to keep the avian population away from runway and approach path have prevented major incidents so far,” a top AAI official told The Hindu.

The inability to use the entire runway for flight operations is also a concern. The AAI was forced to reduce the runway of the international airport from 3,398 metres to 3,373 metres, as the State provided only 34 cents of land on the Vallakadavu side for creating the mandatory Runway End Safety Area (RESA).

The coconut grove on the All Saints College-Veli stretch, the 31-metre high chimney of State-owned Travancore Titanium Products Ltd (TTP) on the approach path, heavy vehicle movement through the Ponnara bridge close to the approach of the runway on Vallakadavu side, all remain safety risks.

The runway also lacks the 150-metre basic strip from the centre line on many stretches. The AAI have been securing licence for the State’s first international airport through ‘temporary exemption’ for non-compliance of ICAO norms for years.

Of the 5.46 hectares of land sought by the AAI for creating the basic strip, 1.39 hectares is on the Shanghumughom side, 0.40 hectares on the Vallakadavu side, and the remaining in between.

Although the ICAO has reduced the basic strip to 140 metres, the efforts for the diversion of the road in front of the Chakka fire station and BrahMos to enable the AAI to construct the mandatory 300-metre-wide basic strips of runway remains on paper.

The AAI has approached the State for 13 acres of land belonging to BrahMos for constructing the runway strips, a31.5 acres on the Titanium side for threshold lighting of one km and for setting up Instrument Lighting System (ILS), and land from the Chakka fire station side for parallel taxiway.

The district administration had identified a defunct school near Veli for relocating the fire station of the Kerala Fire and Rescue Services. The initiative came to an abrupt end when District Collector K. Vasuki was transferred and the AAI’s move to privatise the airport commenced.

The safety risks facing the airport was taken up by the pilots and the operating airlines with the airport authorities. This has also figured in the safety audit. “The airfield is safe for flyers and we are even guarding the extended area to check the bird menace that has to be addressed by the local body,” he said.

The TTP has commenced steps to reduce the height of the chimney, located in the approach of the runway, to 26 metres, the official said, adding the current aerodrome licence is valid till 2023.

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 1:36:32 AM |

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