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Calicut airport's small runway a safety hazard

Aug 05, 2011 11:01 AM IST India India

Thiruvananthapuram: The Mangalore airport crash last year was one of the worst the country has seen. A similar accident is waiting to happen at the Calicut airport, according to a report by the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council, accessed by CNN-IBN.

In the May 22 crash last year, over 150 people died after an Air India Express plane overshot the runway at Mangalore Airport. The airport has a table top runway atop a plateau with a steep drop at either end.

Captain Mohan Ranganathan, a member of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council said, "A couple of days back where a Caribbean aircraft overshot the runway in rain and broke into pieces, a similar thing can happen in Calicut, this is what we have been worried about and we are warning that hey must reduce the runway link. Then the operation will be safe, but with the current link that they have, it is a violation of rules as well as the safety norms."

The Safety Advisory Council report to the DGCA and AAI, dated April 28, said, "A 240 m safety area beyond the runway is critical in case the aircraft overshoots. The Calicut runway doesn't have even the minimum 90 metres. In fact there is a sharp drop. Any aircraft overrunning the runway will fall, possibly breaking up on impact."

The Instrument Landing system is housed in a concrete structure at the end of the runway. A similar structure on the Mangalore runway had shattered the wing of the Air India plane. Norms mandate that structures around the runway must break easily on impact.

The report says, "The ILS/LOC antenna would be even more dangerous upon impact with very grievous consequences. This is a serious safety concern and needs urgent and serious attention of the DGCA."

Nineteen international flights take off and land at Calicut airport everyday. Over 2 million passengers pass through the airport every year.

The question is, will it take another rude wake up call in the form of a disaster for the Civil Aviation Ministry to act or are they violating safety rules to clear the runway for the operation of wide body jet aircraft and maximize profits? These are unanswered questions that demand immediate attention of the authorities.