Delhi’s new airstrip, touted India’s longest, is just seventh

October 25th, 2008 - 12:04 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 25 (IANS) The authorities that built the third runway at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport claim it’s India’s longest - but it’s a credit that remains on paper because of a curious problem.For all practical purposes, the runway is today India’s seventh longest, as almost a quarter of it is unusable.

The IGI’s new runway, rechristened (29/11), is touted as India’s longest airstrip (4,430 metres). But an obstruction created by a 62-feet idol of Lord Shiva facing its landing approach in the east renders over a kilometre of the runway stretch unusable.

This makes the usable stretch shortened to 3,400 metres - making the runway shorter than airstrips in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore, in three other metros - Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai - and Delhi’s own second runway and a little ahead of the Kochi airstrip.

“The shortened threshold (the point where the aircraft is supposed to land) is over a kilometre from the tip of the third runway on National Highway 8 in the east,” admits the assistant vice-president of Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), Arun Arora.

DIAL is a GMR-led joint venture consortium modernising the Delhi airport.

“But if an aircraft lands from the west, it can use the entire runway strip. The shortened threshold is considered only for landing,” Arora said.

At present, the two new greenfield airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore are those with very long runways at 4,260 metres and 4,120 metres respectively. The second runway at Delhi airport is 3,810 metres, while the Chennai one is 3,658m, one in Kolkata 3,629 metres, in Ahmedabad 3,599 metres and in Mumbai 3,445 metres.

Incidentally, the Hyderabad airport too was developed by the GMR consortium that is modernising Delhi airport.

According to Arora, a notem, the process of informing airports across the world regarding the specifications of the third new runway at IGI, has already been done.

The main runway at Delhi airport - its second - is being mostly used now for take-offs, while the new runway is used only for landing.

Also, the landing on the new runway is restricted to 12 hours till 6 p.m., as the lighting system had developed a snag soon after it was made fully operational on Sep 25 and is now unlikely to be operational before November-end, said an airport official.

“Pilots now have to keep the statue in mind before beginning the final descent for touchdown,” says Vikram Yadav, joint secretary of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association. He, however, said it was not a problem for pilots.

The Shiva idol was built by the B.K. Birla trust in March 1994 and was not considered a hazard to flights till the third runway became operational.

DIAL had earlier raised the issue concerning the statue after it began the construction of the new runway in early 2007. The matter was also placed before the government, but no concrete solution emerged.

DIAL then decided to increase the length of the runway on the western side, which jacked up costs.

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