The aviation regulator has told state governments and defence officials to ensure that airports meet minimum safety standards after a check found gross deficiencies at civilian airports across the country.
The check followed India’s worst air disaster in a decade, when an Air India flight crashed at the Mangalore airport in May, killing 158 passengers and crew.
Averting disaster: A file photo of airport officials looking for the black box of the Air India flight that crashed at the Mangalore airport. DGCA has asked state governments to meet some long-standing requests. Hemant Mishra / Mint
The state-owned Airports Authority of India runs 53 operational airports, of which 47 are used for scheduled flights. There are another 22 defence airfields with enclaves to handle civil flight operations, of which 20 are being used for scheduled flights.
Some of the defence airports have wrong runway markings, inadequate fire services and friction testing procedures that do not conform to the norms prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao).
Nasim Zaidi, who heads the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA), recently met defence authorities in the capital and asked them to make their airports Icao-compliant by December.
“We are coordinating with them. There are 22 (defence) airports where there are civilian flights. We have asked for an action plan from them,” said a senior DGCA official.
A second government official confirmed the move. Both officials requested anonymity.
Airports in Srinagar, Jammu, Port Blair and Bagdogra are among those run by the air force or the navy.
At the Srinagar airport, the runway markings do not break up as required at a civilian airport.
DGCA has also asked state government to meet some long-standing requests.
At the Patna airport, which witnessed a plane crash in 2000, DGCA has been asking that the approach funnel of runway 25 be made free of trees, only light vehicles be allowed to ply outside and that road traffic be stopped during the arrival and departure of flights.
It also wants the strip runway 07 to be extended.
The state government has not complied yet. DGCA has now asked it to make the changes by the end of the month or face a ban on the landing of bigger aircraft such as Airbus A320 or Boeing 737, which are used by most carriers.
“The current operation is severely restricted due to the presence of obstacles—trees on one side and railway line on the other,” civil aviation minister Praful Patel told Parliament this month, while replying to a question on the expansion of the Patna airport.
“Government has taken up the matter with the state government for removal of these obstacles as besides this further development of the airport is not possible under present circumstances,” he said.
The DGCA official quoted above said the Bihar government has agreed to cut the trees.
The state’s chief secretary Anup Mukherjee is scheduled to meet DGCA officials on Monday to review the matter.