ON DECEMBER 7, owing to poor visibility, flights at the Chandigarh International Airport remained suspended for an entire day, leading to cancellation of 25 flights, including an IndiGo flight to Dubai. The flight operations, however, resumed partially the next day, but what followed is delay and cancellation of flights almost everyday. On Friday, the airport authority decided to curtail the morning and evening flights, as they couldn’t operate due to poor visibility in the morning and evening.
Watch What Else Is Making News:
The reason for the disruption in the air traffic, being witnessed for the last many days, is the poor visibility due to the foggy weather around the airport. The air traffic officials say that most of times the visibility remains 1 kilometre on the runway and the required visibility for flights to operate is 1,200 metres. This is not a situation unique to this year.
The airport’s Chief Executive Officer Sunil Dutt explains that the flights were cancelled and delayed as the airport is not equipped with upgraded instrument landing system (ILS). The airport has currently CAT (I) category ILS which, according to Dutt, is not adequate to help the flights land at the Chandigarh airport during winter season.
Officials say that since the runway is controlled by the Indian Air Force, the upgradation of ILS has to be done by them only, a claim contested by the IAF.
“At the airport, we have CAT (I) ILS functional, but it is CAT II-compliant. We are not able to make the CAT II functional because the supporting components (like runways light, approach, MeT equipment etc) have to be installed by the IAF and their work is under process,” says Dutt. He adds that upgraded ILS CAT II/III is very “much required for the airport” and it was AAI, which installed the existing ILS at the airport, after the old ILS, which belonged to the Indian Air Force, had been lying defunct since 2008-09.
Group Captain S K Mehta, PRO, Western Air Command, Indian Air Force, however, claims that the IAF will have no issue “if the airport authorities decide to upgrade the current ILS”.
He says that IAF has plans to upgrade the ILS system under the modernisation of airfield infrastructure (MAFI) project; the Air Force runways across the country are being upgraded under this project. “Upgradation of ILS at Chandigarh airport is being done as part of that project,” he adds.
CEO Dutt, however, says that even if AAI installs the new ILS on the runway, the supporting components have to be provided by the Air Force.
The upgradation of ILS system at the airport is not a new issue. The Punjab and Haryana High Court, which is hearing a PIL on it, recently lashed out at the Centre for not making the Chandigarh International Airport CAT-III- compliant. Not only the High Court, airlines, too, say that the issue of upgradation is causing inconvenience to passengers, besides losses to the airlines, as they have to cancel flights.
“Flights are delayed everywhere. But cancellation is a problem for not only passengers, but the airlines as well. Recently, we had to cancel flights because they couldn’t land here due to poor visibility. The upgradation of CAT will at least stop the cancellations,” says a senior official of one of the airlines, which operates at the airport.
Sanjeev Vashisht, president, Mohali Industries Association, who has filed a PIL in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, asserts that unavailability of CAT-III can prevent the growth of this international airport.
“Airport lacking the ILS CAT III system is affecting the growth and industries of the region. There are people who have meetings lined up and they simply can’t attend them because flights are not operating,” he says. “This problem has been there here for so many years. The high court is now monitoring it and we expect that by next winter, the government would install the ILS system at the airport.”
The international flight operations from the city started from September 15 this year. The new terminal constructed
at a cost of Rs 1,400 crore was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 11, 2015. As per the AAI statistics, the airport recorded traffic of 15 lakh passengers during 2015-16.
IAF officials, however, believe that nothing much will change even if ILS is upgraded to CAT III. “CAT III amounts to blind landing and in the country there are less number of pilots who are certified with CAT III landing,” says an Air Force official. “We have best ILS technology available in New Delhi airport and we still have delays and cancellations at the airport. We have to understand the fact that fog is a natural phenomenon and exists worldwide. We have to bear with flight delays during winters.”