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Mercury blow to flight seats

The May scorcher has not only put lives of residents off track, but it has also affected flight operations at Patna airport.

Owing to the short length of the runway and soaring temperature conditions, aircraft are not being allowed to fly with full passenger capacity, in adherence to a temperature-related norm termed load penalty factor.

Under the norm, operators have to reduce the weight of planes by leaving some seats vacant or offload cargo items for smooth take-off when the temperature is high, usually 40°C or above.

“The new-generation aircraft have equipment like weather and temperature sensors. Since this aircraft is completely automated, it does not allow the plane to fly if the atmospheric temperature is higher than the permissible limit,” said Atul Singh, executive director of Delhi-based Centre for Aviation, Policy, Safety and Research.

The load penalty factor plays a role at Patna airport because of the short runway. Against the total length of 2,286m, only 1,954m remains available during take-off because of location constraint.

“We are not able to operate our aircraft with full capacity. A cap of 64 seats against the total capacity of 68 in the economy class has been kept. Only 125 seats are being filled in our Boeing 737-800 aircraft against total seating capacity of 154,” said an executive of Jet Airways at Patna airport.

GoAir sources confirmed it had curtailed seating capacity in a few of its afternoon flights by around 10 per cent. GoAir operates four Airbus 320 aircraft from Patna.

IndiGo sources claimed the weight of their aircraft was being kept under permissible limit by reducing cargo load. “Though we are not reducing number of passengers, at times the load is being kept under limit by offloading cargo items,” said an executive of GoAir at Patna airport.

Aviation experts claimed that there were economic implications of the load penalty factor. “In case an airline is not able to operate to its full capacity, several seats are left vacant. For instance, the highest load penalty is in the case of ATR (small) aircraft. If 20 seats are left vacant on a flight running on Patna-Calcutta route, the airline suffers losses to the tune of around Rs 4,000 per seat. It is worse in case of connecting flights,” said Atul.