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SAAC warns of Kozhikode like danger at Surat Airport

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Surat Airport is an accident, on the lines of the Air India Express crash at Kozhikode, waiting to happen believes the Surat Airport Action Committee (SAAC). Sanjay Ezhava of the committee has pointed out several dangers that put the airport at higher risk. SAAC has written to the prime minister, Civil Aviation Department and the state government in this connection. Some of the issues highlighted are …

Surat airport runway 

By the time the 2905 mt long runway of Surat Airport was constructed in 2018, 615 meters of displacement was given on the Vesu (city side) Runway 22. A displacement area is one that cannot be used due to an obstruction. This effectively means the actual length of the runway when landing from that particular side (in this case the city side) will be the total length of the runway minus the displacement area.

 

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This means if an aircraft was to land from the Vesu Side on the runway of Surat Airport, the runway length available to it is only 2290.

At present 80% of landings at the airport happen from this side. Even a length of 2250 meters is good enough for an Airbus 320 class aircraft to land comfortably. The runway length at Kozhikode Karippur Airport where the recent disaster took place was 2850 meters long. Yet heavy rains and low visibility forced it to slip off the table runway and fall into a 30 feet deep pit. 

Such low visibility and bad weather issues will create a problem for Surat too given that the runway length is shorter than Kozhikode. This means it will be prone to similar accidents. A SpiceJet Q400 aircraft had in 2019 overshot the runway to RESA (Runway Safety Area).

Obstructive buildings near the airport 

Many buildings constructed in and around Surat Airport Runway 22 Vesu Side from 2007 to 2017 are in a state of disrepair. The Airport Authority had in the year 2017, 2018, 2019 issued notices to builders to reduce the height of the building which is around 0.30 m to 14.50 m high from Vesu runway 22 side. These buildings can be a threat during low visibility conditions during landing.  

ONGC Pipelines near the airport runway 

In the year 1990, ONGC laid high-pressure shore gas SBHT pipelines of 36-inch diameter from Mumbai to Surat. The life of this pipeline was 25 years, which came to an end in 2015. After 2015 this pipeline continued to function for three more years without any fitness certificate. At present, it is still functional but has a fitness certificate. A proposal to build a box culvert over the pipeline or shift it completely was made as per the master plan of 2017 to increase the length of Surat Airport runway from 2905 meters to 3810 meters.

 But ONGC officials have refused both the proposals. ONGC has also instructed that the runway should end 200 meters before the SBHT pipelines. If a large aircraft is to overshoot the runway as it happened with Spice Jet Q400 aircraft, the ONGC’s SBHT pipeline will be a major disaster waiting to happen.

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No second ILS at Surat airport 

At present, the Instrument Landing System (ILS) in Surat Airport is installed where Runway 22 ends. But since aircraft landing also takes place from the end of Runway 04 from Dumas side, ILS is needed here too. ILS is very helpful in landing an aircraft in bad weather and also works as a guide for pilots. ILS is needed on both sides of Surat runway as aircraft landing takes place from both areas.

 Shrimp lake around Surat Airport 

Surat airport has one of the highest bird hits in Gujarat. In the year 2019-20, it recorded 14 bird hit incidents. The shrimp ponds built on government land around the airport attract large birds. If the shrimp ponds are not removed, a major catastrophe in the form of bird hits is waiting to happen.

Obstructive buildings towards Dumas Runway 04 

Big buildings have come up towards the Dumas side of Surat Airport (Runway 04). The master plan 2017 of the airport envisages extending the existing runway to 3810 meters. But without considering the master plan, the Airport Authority issued a NOC for construction of the said buildings. They are now obstructions for the runway and without removing them it would not be possible to extend the length of Surat Airport runway to 3810 meters.

Lack of CISF at Surat Airport 

Surat Airport is the first airport in the country to be protected by local police despite having several international flights landing there. Surat has high VVIP movement and is a coastal airport and hence needs better security. In case of a terrorist attack, the local police may be inadequate to handle the same. CISF must be given the security duty as the paramilitary is the one guarding all international airports.

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