• ‘Aae mere watan ke logo, sirf apni asuvidha ki hi nahin, kuchh fauj ke liye bhi socho’ was the crux of the message commander of the Chandigarh Air Force Station Air Commodore S. Srinivasan sought to convey to the domestic and international air passengers ranting about the inconveniences they are having to face because of the temporary closure of the common runway, which the Indian Air Force shares with the Chandigarh International Airport, for urgent extension and strengthening to allow the bigger and heavier aircraft to operate.

Interacting with media persons at the Air Force Station on Wednesday in an effort to remove the misconceptions and misgivings being aired by various quarters in the Media, the Air Commodore explained that far more than the small inconveniences that commercial airline passengers are having to face due to the 19-day second complete shutdown of the runway, the air station being the biggest logistics air base of the country, the lifeline of troops deployed right across Jammu and Kashmir, from Srinagar to Karakoram to Ashai Chin, had been affected which has a direct bearing on our national security.

 Photos By : Life In Chandigarh

“The air base undertakes 29,000 tonnes of haulage of essential supplies and hardware annually to Jammu and Kashmir alone for which is has to operate 10-15 air sorties on a daily basis. Imagine the challenges being faced by the Indian Air Force having to relocate all its aircraft to alternatives bases in North India. So, please be assured that we will not take a day longer than necessary to complete the work, and this could likely be the last full shutdown required till the completion of the entire project. And, the benefits that are to accrue to the civil passengers and the military at the completion of the project are going to be monumental, considering that bigger and heavier military and civil aircraft will be able to operate from the runway round the clock,” Air Commodore Srinivasan informed.

Painting a rosy picture of the pace of work, he said despite the current unseasonal inclement weather, which had severely hampered the laying of bitumen layers on the runway, the deadline of completing the work by May 31 will be met. “Normal day operations of airlines can start forthwith, and from June 4 the watch hours will also be increased to allow flights to operate till 7 p.m. With the completion of second phase of the project by end of the year, and the runway being extended from the current 9,000 feet to 12,400, all types of aircraft will be able to operate from the runway. By February end 2019, with fitment of runway lights and other navigational aids, including the Cat II Instrument Landing System (ILS), unrestricted day and night operations would be possible,” he added.

The Air Commodore said thereafter other works like creation of safety lanes, provision of parking services and aero bridges will continue till completion of the entire project by August 2019, which will in real terms make the airport certified international, allowing aircraft short of the Airbus A380 and A350, but as large as Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 777, Airbus A320 and A330 to operate from here.

Defending IAF’s decision to install Cat II ILS, he said it was found sufficient for Chandigarh International Airport as it enabled landing at visibility of up to 350 metres. Statistical data collected over the last 10 years had shown that throughout the year there were just 10 days in the month of January (beginning) and four days each in December (last week) and February (first week) when the visibility fell below 350 metres, that too for a maximum of 3-4 hours a day. However, Airport Authority of India (AAI) is assessing feasibility of fitment of Cat III ILS which permits operations down to 100 metres visibility, but that would demand isolation of larger tracts of critical areas and thus involve procurement of additional land from Punjab and Chandigarh, he asserted.

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