It’s the most recurring problem at the Chennai airport– falling glass panels. Days after Airport Authority of India (AAI) blamed impurities in the glass for the frequent number of incidents, aviation experts wondered why the ‘phenomenon’ was the Chennai airport’s alone.
“There were 65 cases of breaking glass at the Chennai airport. Do any of the other airports report such incidents?” questions Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety consultant.
Sudhakar Reddy, Founder and President of the Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) also asks, “How many buildings in Chennai have glass panels externally and internally? Why do no other structure have such problems?”
Responding to a notice by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), AAI denied that there were structural issues in the glass panels and added that no passengers had been injured in falling glass panels. AAI also went on to blame “media hype” for creating a false perception.
Captain Ranganathan, however, points to the waiting lounge at the Coimbatore Airport where the plaster on the ceiling is allegedly coming apart. “Look at what is happening at the Coimbatore Airport. This is also a structural issue. You can’t blame the quality,” he argues.
Based on an IIT Madras report, AAI also informed NHRC that the “spontaneous breakage” of glass panels was on account of inclusion of nickel sulphate, which was a “normal phenomenon” and well within the industrial limit. The APAI President, however, dismissed AAI’s theory stating, “As a passenger I am not interested in nickel sulphate. I am interested in passenger safety and my safety.”
The Chennai Airport, inaugurated in 2013 was expanded and renovated at a cost of Rs 2000 crore. Since its inauguration, around 14 people have been reportedly injured following the breakage of glass panels, the most recent incident taking place on Sunday when an Air India passenger sustained minor injuries.
Reddy alleges that glass panels used at the airport were imported when they could have been locally sourced. While Captain Ranganathan suggests that an independent panel devoid of government officials be constituted to look into structural issues at the Chennai airport, Reddy says, “You have to replace the glass and the glass has to be weatherproof and able to withstand heat or cold.”
In a meeting on June 27 between AAI, APAI, AOC and other stakeholders, Reddy formulated a 27-point proposal to improve the Chennai airport. However, he says that AAI officials were not open to constructive criticism and feedback.