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Airport dresses up for A380

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By SANJAY MANDAL
  • Published 3.05.08
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Calcutta airport aims to be ready for the Airbus A380 by the end of next year though no airline in India will have the flying behemoth in its fleet until at least 2011.

The runway at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport will be widened and lengthened, along with the addition of a taxiway, to make room for the world’s largest commercial aircraft. “We hope to complete the work in a year from the day of commencement. If we can finish the work in time, it is going to be a big achievement,” airport director V.K. Monga said on Friday.

Apart from New Delhi airport, where the A380 made its first landing in India on May 6 last year, Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai and the new Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad in Hyderabad are ready to greet the A380.

“The width of the taxiway shoulder is the most important factor in handling the A380. We have drawn up our blueprint for expansion,” Monga said.

The plan to extend the secondary runway by 400 metres on the southern side, towards Narayanpur, was finalised earlier this week. The runway is already being extended by 440 metres on the opposite side, avoiding the mosque that stands there.

The Kaikhali road will have to be diverted because of the southern extension. “The Airports Authority of India (AAI) will lease out more than 25,000 square metres of land to the state government for the diversion,” an official said.

The AAI will spend Rs 2 crore and the state government will provide Rs 3 crore.

The length of the runway is 2,400 metres and the addition of 840 metres will be enough to handle large, wide-bodied aircraft like the A380.

As many as 12 new parking bays are under construction along with two additional security-hold enclosures on the ground floor of the domestic terminal.

The manager of Singapore Airlines’ operations in the east, Vinod Kannan, said Calcutta was a “very important market” and that an A380 could fly out of the city sooner than most expected. “We will definitely consider the option to operate an A380 aircraft from here.”

Singapore Airlines now flies Calcutta to Singapore four times a week. The airline was the first to introduce an A380 flight — between Singapore and Sydney — in October last year. The flight to Delhi earlier was part of a promotional tour organised by Airbus.

The minimum width of the taxiway should be 23 metres for an A380. The shoulder width on either side must be around 30 metres each because of the aircraft’s mammoth wingspan.

“Taxiway shoulders must be constructed to reduce the chances of damage caused to (or by) the outboard engines, which overhang more than 25 metres from the centre of the aircraft,” the official said.

The taxiway and runway must be capable of supporting the A380’s weight, too. A turning pad will be built on the edge of the northern extension to enable the aircraft to use the full length of the runway for take-off.

The only Indian airline that has ordered an A380 so far is Kingfisher Airlines. It will have a fleet of five jets, the first of which is to be delivered in 2011.