THE CHANDIGARH International Airport will close for second time this year from May 12 to May 31 due to the ongoing runway repair. A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday allowed the Air Force to issue the notice to airmen (NOTAM) for the closure period. The NOTAM was issued to the airlines soon after the order.
During the second closure period, according to a submission before the division bench of Justices Ajay Kumar Mittal and Amit Rawal, the work contractor is also expected to install the runway lights and navigational aids, including the instrument landing system (ILS) at the airport to “ensure early operationalisation of the runway for night and poor visibility operations”.
Amid an opposition against the timing of second closure from the counsel representing the airlines, the division bench observed that the safety of the public cannot be compromised.
The division bench also directed the Ministry of Defence to clear the contractor’s outstanding amount of Rs 39.20 crore of the bill, dated February 27.
“Try to convince your people not to object to this. It is not only about money,” the division bench observed when the counsel representing the private airlines contended that May is a peak period for air traffic and the closure should be delayed at least till July.
Air Force in an affidavit informed the division bench that “the second closure, as submitted earlier, has been found feasible on either of two dates i.e. from 12th to 31st may 2018 or from 14th May to 2nd June, 2018”.
While the Air Force informed the bench that the closure timing was decided on March 7 during a meeting, the counsel representing the Jet Airways protested saying their objection to the timing has not been recorded and nor has it been taken note of.
Although the closure period earlier was supposed to be only of 15 days, the contractor at the meeting had informed the Air Force that there had been the loss of eight working days due to untimely rain during the first closure period — February 12 to February 26 — and the subsequent days.
“The laying of DAC layer will be completed before the onset of monsoon. This will facilitate extension of airfield watch hours (during daylight period) since ramping and subsequent runway cleaning and inspections work at night will not be required,” the minutes of the meeting read.
The work contractor during the meeting had told the Air Force that any closure option after May 18 will only be after October 1 which might result in delay in the installation of the lights and other infrastructure. “Further, he has sought the intervention of the state to override any supply disruption due to strike/mining restrictions/ law and order,” the minutes read.
The runway construction cost amounts to Rs 25 crore every 15 days — the total amounting to approximately Rs 170 crore up to May 2018.
‘Runway length will be 10,400 feet’
The airport authorities in a statement said that there will not be any further closure after May 31. “Due to runway recarpeting/repair of runway work, strength of runway will be increased more than 75 PCN which can cater to widebody aircraft from Chandigarh. After this closure, available runway length will be 9,000 feet. Earlier, it was reduced to 7,200 feet due to repair work. Also, IAF may increase the operation hour from dawn to dusk. After completion of complete runway resurfacing work, runway length will be 10,400 feet,” the statement reads.
Suneel Dutt, CEO of the CHIAL, said the uprgradtion of the runway will attract the flight operators to fly to destinations of more than 5,000 kilometre distance like the USA, Canada, Europe, UK and others.