The Leh airport was closed for operations on Tuesday after the runway was blocked by the Indian Air Force’s heavy-lifter C-17 Globemaster which was facing technical issues, officials familiar with the matter said, reports NDTV.
The non-operational runway led to flight diversions and cancellations. Domestic airlines such as IndiGo, Air India, SpiceJet and Vistara operate 10 flights to Leh every day.
The US-origin aircraft - the IAF operates a fleet of 11 C-17 heavy lifters - was on a routine air maintenance sortie when it landed at Leh on Tuesday morning. The technical issue with the C-17 heavy-lifter is not a serious one and is being fixed, officials aware of the matter, who asked not to be named, said. “The issue is being fixed and the runway should be operational by tomorrow,” said one of the officials.
Swedish internet-based service Flightradar24, which shows real-time aircraft tracking information also said that all the flights to the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh have been cancelled.
Vistara said on Twitter its flight UK601 from Delhi to Leh (DEL-IXL) was returning to Delhi airport due to runway restrictions at Leh and is expected to arrive in Delhi at 10 am.
Air India also diverted one of their two flights scheduled for Leh to Srinagar and cancelled the second flight after a notice to airmen (NOTAM) was issued due to the breakdown of the Globemaster.
While SpiceJet cancelled two of its three flights, IndiGo cancelled all of its operating four flights to Leh.
A lot of passengers were left stranded on several other airports whose flights were bound to Leh.
An IndiGo passenger said that the Leh-bound flight was diverted to Chandigarh, and is now going back to Mumbai.
Another person appealed to the Airport Authority of India to give permission to fly a few additional flights to and from Leh Airport.
“All flights have been cancelled for today and airlines will be informed if the runway could be operational as per schedule tomorrow,” an airport official said.
Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh is one of the highest commercial airports in the world. The airport is situated at 3,256 m (10,682 ft) above sea level.