Chennai: Over 165 passengers plus crew on an Indigo flight from Mumbai could have had anxious and harrowing time Saturday evening as the aircraft circled over Chennai for about 30 minutes while waiting for the clearance to land because of the non-availability of runway. In the process, the Airbus-320 cruising at low altitude and speed, wasted close to half-a-ton of precious fuel, airport sources told DC.
They said though the Indigo pilot reached Chennai ten minutes early at 1625 hours (4.25 pm), he was forced to keep his plane in the skies as the maintenance work now going on at the airport ensured that runway-one was closed and only the second runway was operational. And this runway was busy handling the departure of two flights around that time-the Chennai-Madurai Air India/Alliance Air flight that was to depart at 1620 hours (4.20 pm) but took off only at 1641 hours and the Indigo Chennai-Vijayawada flight that was to leave at 1630 hours but took off only at 1645 hours (4.45 pm).
Finally, the flight 6E-768 from Mumbai was cleared for landing and the pilot touched the tarmac at 1654 hours.
“This is nothing unusual as the first runway is closed for maintenance during 1430-1700 hours on the Saturdays in view of the Rs.2,400 crore airport development work that began in April this year”, said an airport source, adding, “We are expecting the project to be completed by September next year and there will be hiccups of this kind until then”.
Attempts to get the ‘official’ version of the day's episode did not succeed since Airport Director Srikumar was said to be away in Delhi and could not be reached on his mobile phone and his deputy Ramagopalan retired from service just today (Saturday) and his mobile phone was found to be switched off.
Another official source, on condition of anonymity said it had become common at the Chennai airport to have delayed landings and departures due to the ongoing works that have caused acute shortages in bay-parking areas for the planes. “While the international flights get preferential treatment from the ATC, the domestic flights are made to either circle over the city for long or simply diverted to either Bangalore or Hyderabad in case of low fuel. There could be at least two or three flights diverted in this fashion in a weak”, he said. He said the aircraft circling over the city while waiting for landing clearance would be flying at lower altitude and speed and that would consume more fuel. “But we cannot take such things into serious consideration. The safety of the passengers and the aircraft are crucial and we will do everything to ensure that”, said the official....