Frequent fliers can expect respite from fog or heavy rain at Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport with a new system being installed to enhance aircraft operations.
The state government has agreed to a proposal of Airports Authority of India (AAI) for installation of approach lighting system (ALS) on Pir Ali Path (commonly known as airport road) and inside the zoo. The installation of the new ALS would allow operations at the airport even at visibility of 800 metres with human eyes.
At present, operations of flights are allowed only if visibility is 1,200 metres or more.
In a meeting held between government officials and the AAI on January 2, chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha gave an in-principle approval to the latter’s proposal to install the ALS.
Confirming the approval, Dipak Kumar Singh, principal secretary, environment and forest department, said: “The AAI has been allowed to install the approach lights on airport road and inside the zoo premises. The installation of the lights inside the zoo premises would be subject to necessary clearance.”
The AAI might be required to take a no-objection certificate from either the Central Zoo Authority or the ministry of environment and forests before installing the approach light inside the zoo premises.
The ALS is high intensity lights, which guide pilots to establish visual contact with the runway. (See graphics)
Aviation experts have hailed the move of the authorities to install more ALS outside the periphery of Patna airport. “Considering the short runway length for the operation of aircraft on runway 25 at Patna airport, the decision of the authorities to install more ALS on the approach funnel beyond the airport boundary is a welcome move. The ALS is the safest visual approach system based on illuminated device system as per International Civil Aviation Organisation’s air navigational parameters and regulations,” said Atul Singh, executive director of Delhi-based Centre for Aviation, Policy, Safety and Research.
Atul added: “The ALS are installed at Patna airport on a stretch of 210 metres before the runway. Ideally, the minimum length for installation of such lights is 420 metres, which allows the flights to land with visibility at 800 metres or less. Installation of more approach lights would now solve this issue.”
According to sources, the AAI has done survey inside the zoo premises for the location of the ALS after the approval for the same by the state government.
However, the forest department is seeking monetary support from the AAI for its zoo development plan in lieu of the loss in the green cover due to large-scale pruning of trees for ensuring safe air operations.
“Following repeated insistence from the AAI, around 600 trees were pruned in 2012. Thereafter also, we keep pruning the branches of trees that fall on the aircraft approach funnel at an interval of three months. Thus, the zoo has suffered a substantial loss in green cover for ensuring safe air operations. Accordingly, it was during a recent meeting with the AAI officials under the chairmanship of chief conservator of forests that we suggested that the AAI should provide some monetary support for the landscape development in the area at zoo, which is now devoid of green cover,” said a senior official of the forest department.
The flying experience from the airport during winter has been quite bad in the recent years when the minimum visibility criterion was 1,600m.
The AAI reduced the minimum visibility requirement for flight operations from 1,600m to 1,200m this winter.