Thursday, March 30

Secondary runway capacity to be enhanced to pack in more flights

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For the first time in decades, an attempt is being made to enhance the secondary runway capacity at Kolkata airport. Currently, the secondary runway is capable of handling 15 flights an hour. The airport has to grapple with flight delays when the main runway, which has a capacity of 35 flights an hour, is shut for maintenance.

Speaking to TOI, Airports Authority of India regional executive director (east) KL Sharma said a blueprint had been prepared for augmenting the secondary runway capacity. “The number of flights operating at Kolkata airport has increased from around 250 a day in 2012 to over 450 now. The capacity of the passenger terminal has increased as has the primary runway capacity. But flight handling capacity of the secondary runway has remained unchanged. Given the pressure of flights, it has become imperative that we do something about it now,” said Sharma.

While the 2,790-metre secondary runway is long enough to handle aircraft that airlines operate to Kolkata, the current alignment of Taxi Track A is such that an aircraft has to enter in the middle of the runway, backtrack over 600 metre, make a U-turn and then start the takeoff run. This keeps the runway needlessly engaged for an additional 2 minutes per flight.

“At present, the minimum gap between two flights is 4 minutes. Our endeavour is to reduce this gap so that more flights can be packed in an hour. To do so, we have proposed to extend Taxi Track F from parking bays towards the north. This taxi track will run parallel to the runways and then turn right to join the secondary runway near the start point. By doing so, flights could save 2 minutes. That could potentially double the runway capacity,” said Sharma. The exact capacity will be determined after a safety assessment is carried out once the infrastructure is enhanced.

A decision has already been taken to demolish two hangers that currently lie in the way of the proposed taxi track.

Also, Taxi Track A is so close to the secondary runway that planes cannot begin taxiing for departure if another flight is scheduled to arrive or takeoff from the secondary runway. Once Taxi Track F is extended and used by aircraft taxiing for takeoff, it will not hinder operations on the secondary runway as the distance between the two will be adequate.

Secondary runway capacity wasn’t a bother till a couple of years ago. But now, it has become a headache for both — the airport operator and the airlines — as the primary runway is now shut down twice a week for extensive maintenance that the CAT III-B instrument landing system requires. While airport officials schedule the maintenance during afternoon ‘lean’ hours, the situation gets tricky if the maintenance hour gets extended. With flights unable to land as scheduled, congestion builds up in the sky, leading to delays.

On February 10, a four-hour shutdown of the primary runway had caused a logjam that held up chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s flight.

Source: Times of India

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