Monday, February 20, 2012

Airport authorities implement some proposals of Gokhale report

A new Air Traffic Control Tower to be set up within a year

As per the recommendation made in a report regarding the May 22, 2010, air crash, a new Air Traffic Control Tower will come up at the Mangalore airport within a year at an estimated cost of Rs. 19 crore.

The Court in Inquiry, headed by Air Marshall B.N. Gokhale, has made the recommendation in a 175-page report on the tragic incident of the Dubai-Mangalore Air India Express that claimed 158 lives. The Boeing 737-800 overshot the runway and plunged off the cliff into a wooded area.

Airport Director M.R. Vasudeva told The Hindu on Monday that the new 21 M building would house the communication equipment, radars, aerodrome control unit, and would have enough space for improvement. Some of the control units were functioning from the old building of the airport terminal. The Gokhale report had suggested that ATC should be centrally located to offer a clear field view to the ATC controller.

Mr. Vasudeva said the airport had raised the level of overshoot area of the tabletop runway at Mangalore Airport thereby meeting another recommendation. The probe report quoting International Civil Aviation Organisation said that most accidents occurred during landing and take-off phases with aircraft overrunning into the overshoot area. The airport had ensured that the Instrument Landing System's antenna at the end of the runway was fragile. It might be recalled that a wing of the ill-fated aircraft had hit the non-fragile antenna before veering to the edge of the tabletop runway as the pilot attempted a belated take-off.

Mr. Vasudeva said that maintenance of the runway-end safety area had been ensured. Recommending this, the probe report pointed out, “there were not only a number of shrubs growing all over, but some of the approach lights had their concrete mountings jutting out above the surface.”
Left out

One area that is yet to be addressed, however, is providing the engineering material arresting system in the overshoot area which was found necessary by the Court in Inquiry “especially for tabletop airports such as Mangalore” to bring the veering aircraft to a halt.

Mr. Vasudeva said this was still “under consideration”.

The Gokhale report recommended this considering the large number of runway excursions leading to hull loss accidents. Mr. Vasudeva said mining activity had not been observed that could narrow down the width of the runway.

Pointing out that width of the runway was 150 metres instead of the standard 300 metres, the probe report said: “The limited strip width is one of the permanent concessions sought by the Airports Authority of India (which runs the airport) for licensing…”

The report insists that all operators should cater to safe crosswind limitation for the type of aircraft operations in view of the narrower strip width. “The ATC controller needs to caution the pilots in this regard.”

On the Gokhale report's recommendation to initiate engineering measures to prevent erosion of strip width, Mr. Vasudeva said retaining walls had been built wherever required.

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