The Calicut International Airport in Karipur, one of the four international airports in Kerala, as well as the Chennai International Airport have been pulled up by the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA) over safety concerns. Following an audit from July 2 to 5, both the airports received a show cause notice from the DGCA over unsafe airport maintenance. The Airports Authority of India, which runs both airports have been given 15 days to respond to the notice.
Among the significant safety concerns highlighted by the DGCA in Kozhikode airport are excessive rubber deposits on the runway, which can reduce friction and lead to unsafe landings for aircrafts especially during the heavy rains that Kerala is witnessing now. The directorate also pointed to cracks and water stagnation of upto 1.5 m on parts of runway.
On the notice, an AAI spokesperson from the Calicut airport told media that they were looking into the findings of the DGCA and taking corrective measures. According to the AAI spokesperson, runway friction at Calicut International Airport was maintained at a higher rate as per DGCA instructions. Exclusive rubber deposit removal vehicles costing Rs 5.5 crore too have been procured by Calicut AAI to correct the issue. Runway slopes are maintained as per standards and drainage is cleared during pre-monsoon preparedness, the spokesperson added.
The AAI is currently looking for the rains to let up to correct the erosion and rain water stagnation on the runway.
Some of the other findings of the DGCA include cracks found at aircraft stand number 5. A portion of the apron surface measuring 111 m was also found damaged. A downwards slope of 5 m depth was found after the apron behind airport stand number 1 which had to be levelled and graded.
The notice added that the “digital MET display (Distant Indication Wind Equipment) installed for runway 10 was unserviceable and is under NOTAM since many days, and is not in compliance with the mitigation measures committed for Code E operations. NOTAM or Notice to Airmen is filed with an aviation authority to alert pilots of potential hazards along a flight route or at a specific location which could affect the safety of the flight.
The DGCA notice concluded that based on these findings, it was inferred that “critical parts of aerodrome required to conduct safe operations” at Calicut and Chennai International Airports was not being maintained in accordance with the rules and AAI has been asked to furnish an explanation for the same.
Until 2015, Kozhikode airport has figured among the 10 busiest airports in India. It has been licensed under public use category for all weather operations since June 2007 and the license, which is renewed time to time, is valid till June 2021.
The Kozhikode airport has a tabletop runway, which are typically situated on a hillock and hence likelihood of flights overshooting the strip are greater.
On July 9, G Chandramouli, director of the Chennai International Airport received a show cause notice.
The notice issued stated that non-frangible material such as concrete slabs, open concrete trench and chambers were found on the primary and secondary runways of the airport. Further several large loose stones were discovered on the Runway End Safety Area or RESA of both ends of the Chennai airport’s primary runway, reports stated. The DGCA notice added that Chennai’s primary runway also failed the friction test, making the runway slippery for aircraft landings.
According to DGCA findings, the friction reading levels of a portion of the runway was below required levels. Some of the runway signboards and lighting were also not found to be working, according to the notice. The director of Chennai airport too has been asked to respond to the show cause notice within 15 days, failing which the DGCA will take an ‘ex parte’ decision on the same.
Speaking to TNM, an aviation analyst added that maintenance of many Indian airports by the AAI were dismal. “I have personally inspected many of the airports which are being pulled up and rubber accumulation is a common issue on the runways. It is not just Kozhikode but several other airports which face this issue. For all of the 126 airports in the country, the number of rubber residue removers would be around 10. Airports, such as the one in Guwahati, do not even have firefighting capabilities.”
The DGCA has also issued a show cause notice to the Ahmedabad airport following an audit. The notice to the airport said that “concrete items, bitumen waste, electrical trenches/main hole and drainage open holes were found on the runway strip.” A seven-month analysis of the friction levels of Ahmedabad airports runways showed a downward trend which indicated poor maintenance. At some points, the friction levels have also reduced to below minimum requirements.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation audit comes after a spate of accidents last week, due to rains. The focus of the audit will be crew preparedness for safe operations in adverse weather conditions to on ground situation in areas seeing heavy showers. Six incidents of landing were reported in 3 days between June 30 and July 2, which included 3 SpiceJet flights, 2 Air India Express flight and 1 GoAir flight.
The DGCA has issued show cause notices to SpiceJet.