Pruning of trees at Peer Ali graveyard on the northeastern corner of Patna airport is turning out to be the final hurdle towards resolving the runway crisis.
In September, Airports Authority of India (AAI) had asked the state government to prune a few trees inside the graveyard. But no progress has been made so far. As a result, the AAI is mulling a fifth extension for an effective date of its August 3 notice regarding re-notification of the runway length.
“Most obstacles falling on the property of the state government and the aircraft approach funnel at the airport have been removed. But the government has not taken any action to prune the trees at the graveyard. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) wants to know the state’s action plan. It will decide the future course of action on the basis of the state’s plan. Considering the prevailing conditions, the AAI headquarters might give another extension for the effective date for revised length of the runway. A notice to airmen (Notam) is expected to come within two or three days,” a senior AAI officer told The Telegraph here.
He added: “During review meetings held at the chief secretary level, we have been assured that the state government is seriously pursuing the matter related to the pruning of the trees. We are awaiting a positive response at the earliest. No religious issues regarding the pruning of trees were raised during any of the meetings.”
A senior officer at the AAI’s eastern regional office in Calcutta said the organisation was ready to bear the expenses for pruning of the trees at the graveyard. “The state government had in its last communication expressed apprehension that there might be some damage to the graves if the trees were pruned. However, we suggested that they could construct an elevated platform, made of bamboo, over the graves. This would avert any damage to the graves. The AAI would bear the cost for constructing the platform. But the trees have to be pruned by the state government,” he added. The officer, however, said the AAI was not planning to reduce the length of the runway.
The civil aviation regulator had on June 30 held back renewal of the licence because of 101 obstacles along the airport’s landing approach funnel. The deadline for issuance of fresh licence is December 31, after which the DGCA would stop operation of aircraft at the airport. An application for renewal of operating licence of the airport is pending before the DGCA since October.
The AAI had on August 3 issued a Notam, according to which the landing distance available on runway 7 (Phulwarisharif end) was re-notified from 1,677m to 1,141m. The landing distance on runway 25 (Patna zoo end) was also reduced to 1,289m from 1,820m. The take-off distance of both the runways was also downsized. The revised length of the runway is not long enough for safe operation of bigger aircraft like Boeing 737 and Airbus A-320 and only allows smaller aircraft like ATR and Bombardier CRJ to operate.
The last Notam was issued on November 22, postponing the effective date of re-notified length of the runway from October 31 to November 30.