Chandigarh Airport is aiming to become an international airport soon, but sadly its Instrument Landing System (ILS), a vital system needed to guide pilots when the weather conditions do not allow for a visual approach and landing, has been lying defunct in these fog-filled winter days.
[ReviewAZON display=”searchquery” query=”airport” count=”5″ category=”All” page=”1″ sort=”default”]Construction work is on to convert the airport into an international airport. It was earlier supposed to be completed in October last year, but airport officials now say that the work would be completed by June 2010. This would be the region’s second international airport after the Raja Sansi International Airport in Amritsar.
Being primarily a military airfield, all air traffic control facilities, including navigational and landing aids and other safety measures at Chandigarh airport are normally managed by the Indian Air Force.
Experts allege that a defunct ILS can create obstacles in the path of Chandigarh airport attaining international stature.
However, defence spokesperson Pardeep Das Gupta maintains otherwise.
“A defunct ILS system is not the reason behind the delay in starting international flights from this airport. There are many other requirements and parameters that they have to fulfil before achieving the standard of an international airport,” Gupta told IANS.
With the exisiting ILS not working, airport authorities are waiting for an advanced system. The defunct system had grounded Chandigarh airport for almost two weeks, from Jan 1 to 14.
The authorities concerned are not sure when this crucial navigation device will be installed.
“A new, advanced ILS will be installed but I cannot specify the actual time. We are already working in this direction and we will try to install it at the earliest,” Gupta said.
He added: “We did not repair the defunct ILS system because we know that this machine will be replaced by more superior and sophisticated CAT II ILS in the coming days.”
After remaining suspended for nearly 14 days, the first flight – of Go Air – came here from Delhi Friday. Air India and Kingfisher also started their flights Saturday. However, Jet Airways has cancelled all its flights till Jan 18.
On normal days, over a dozen flights arrive and depart from this airport and all the major airlines like Air India, Jet Airways, Kingfisher, Go Air and MDLR operate from here.
The airport authorities blamed Indian Air Force (AIF) officials for the technical glitch.
“ILS is one of the most important navigation devices needed for the smooth operations during foggy weather and overcast conditions. But for the last six months it is lying defunct at our airport,” Sunil Dutt, director of Chandigarh Airport, told IANS.
“The ILS equipment was installed by the IAF and as per norms, it is their duty to repair it at regular intervals. We understand that the installation of a new system could take time, but they should at least repair the present ILS or allow our official to repair it,” he said.
Countering the allegation, Gupta said, “Basically this airfield is meant only for IAF aircraft but we had extended this facility for the commercial operations of Chandigarh Airport. Now our primary duty is not to look after the commercial activities of this airport but to ensure national security and provide strategic inputs.”
In normal conditions, a plane can land safely if visibility is up to 2,800-3,000 metres. The ILS can help if visibility is reduced to 1,200-1,400 metres.
“All the commercial airlines had cancelled their flights, but the Indian Air Force operations were on. And by landing their aircraft without an ILS device they were posing a great threat to the lives of thousands of people living in the nearby areas,” a senior official of the airport, requesting not to be named, told IANS.
He stated, “Due to the cancellation of flights, airlines have suffered losses worth crores of rupees.”
Chandigarh Airport, considered a gateway to Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, is frequented by celebrities and politicians en route to other states.
By Alkesh Sharma
(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)