Calcutta airport will finally become a safer place to land, through fog or foul weather.
With work to instal the CAT-II lighting system finally getting underway from September 1, various airlines clamouring for better “air-safety conditions” at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport, especially between November and February, can now fly easy.
The CAT-II (category two) facility involves setting up small lights along the centre line of the runway, making it easier for pilots to spot the landing stretch even when the visibility is “very poor”. The new system will help the Airports Authority of India (AAI) counter dense fog, as well as heavy financial losses due to flight cancellations, in the winter — and sometimes, monsoon — months.
Flight operations must, however, be rescheduled till mid-2004, as a large portion of the main runway will remain inaccessible for the next nine months. After careful assessment of the ground conditions, AAI has decided to carry out the CAT-II installation work between 9 am and 5 pm, and then leave the main runway to bigger craft.
“The complete setting up of the lighting system is an arduous task. We have, therefore, decided to allow bigger crafts to operate after evening, while the small flights will use the secondary runway without a hitch,” said airport director J. Kongari.
This is part of a Rs 125-crore modernisation programme for the city airport, announced by former civil aviation minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.
Welcoming the decision to instal the facility at Calcutta airport, M.K. Singh, secretary of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, said flying in and out of the city airport would become “much more comfortable”, especially in winter.
The Airlines Operators Committee has, meanwhile, demanded that the CAT-II lighting system be extended from the main runway to the bay area, to make the “entire landing operation” safer.
The committee has also raised questions about the mushrooming of fish markets outside the perimeter wall of the airport, attracting scavenging birds to the airport area. Pilots have reported numerous “near-bird hits” while taking off and landing at Dum Dum.
“There are two vital air-safety issues — the mushrooming of markets and the tall buildings coming up on the Narayanpur side of the airport. These must be taken up with the government,” a committee spokesperson said.