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Aug 24

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  • Created: Mon 7th Jan 2013
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Mumbai airport to operate with one runway for 7 months

Mumbai: From October, the main runway will be shut for eight hours a day, six days a week, for the construction of two new taxiways; international flights won't be affected but expect major disruptions on domestic routes.

Get ready for delays, possible higher ticket prices, and some upset schedules as the Mumbai airport plans to shut its main runway for eight hours, six days a week, starting October-end to build two new taxiways.

While the construction work, which will take seven months to complete, will cause major disruptions as operations will be shifted during this time to the secondary runway, the new taxiways will eventually help taking smaller aircraft faster off the runway after landing, adding to overall efficiency.

The decision to carry out the construction during the day, and thus spare international flights from disruptions, was taken at a high-level meeting at the airport on Monday. The meeting was attended by senior officials of the airport's private operator Mumbai International Airport Limited and the Airports Authority of India.

General Manager, Air Traffic Control, Jayant Dasgupta confirmed the plan to shut the main runway. "The main runway will be closed from October end till May 2014 to felicitate the construction work of taxiways. During the closure period, flights will be operated from secondary runway 14/32," he said. Mumbai International Airport Limited officials refused to comment.

Sources revealed that a notice to airmen (NOTAM) will be drawn in the month of September for the temporary closure of the runway.

Domestic airlines will have to make several changes to adapt to the secondary runway 14/32 which at 3126 metres is 322 metres shorter than the main runway 09/27. To start with, they will have to operate with either lighter passenger loads or compromise on their cargo weight. And it is unlikely the airlines will not shift this loss of revenue to passengers by hiking ticket rates.

The construction work will also lead to delays as the secondary runway does not have enough number of taxiways, leading to aircraft taking longer to vacate the take-off and landing path. Also, since this runway is smaller in both length and width, the landing aircraft must approach at a lower speed. "All these factors will cumulatively cause delays," said aviation expert Vipul Saxena.

The shutting off of the main runway will also impact operations at the Juhu airport, as the approach and take-off path of the secondary runway cuts diagonally through the take-off and approach path of the Juhu airport runway. Since the Juhu airport does not have night landing facility, it would be as good as shut for the seven months the new taxiways at the international airport will be under construction. Captain Uday Gelli, a helicopter pilot who operates frequently from Juhu, said: "Due to the conflict of paths it is risky to operate on 08/26 (Juhu airstrip) when 14/32 is in use at Mumbai airport. I personally will not fly in such conditions and I think other helicopter pilots will also do the same."

General Manager, Airports Authority of India, VSP Chinson, however said the closure of runway will not impact operations at the Juhu airport. "I am aware about the runway closure plan. Such closure will not impact the operations at Juhu airport," he said.

Sources revealed that shutting down the main runway during the night would have been difficult as a majority of foreign carriers are averse to using the secondary runway. A pilot with an international airline said he prefers to land some other airport if the secondary runway is in operation in Mumbai. "If runway 14/32 is in use, most foreign carriers prefer either to goaround or land at some other airport. Apart from its length, this runway is also nearly 15 meters narrower," he said.