Srinagar Airport faces delay in advance landing system

As almost 100 flights were cancelled at the Srinagar International Airport for four consecutive days due to the recent snowfall, lack of an advance landing system at the aerodrome continues to add to the flight cancellations during times of poor visibility.

Presently, the runway at the Srinagar Airport has CAT-I landing system which needs more than 1 kilometer minimum visibility for landing of an aircraft.

Despite the need for an advance landing system to minimise the flight cancellations due to bad weather, Instrument Landing System (ILS) CAT II project, work on which was likely to kick-start in November this year, has been further delayed, officials informed.

“We have got to know that the CAT II project is further delayed and work on it will start only next year now,” an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official told Greater Kashmir wishing not to be named.

Installation of ILS CAT II landing system will bring down the need for minimum required visibility at the Srinagar Airport for an aircraft to land between 350 to 500 metres, the official said. This will consequently reduce the number of flight cancellations especially during foggy conditions.

It may be mentioned that Delhi Airport has CAT III-B landing system installed, which allows an aircraft to land even during a minimum runway visibility of 50 meters.

The implementation of the proposed ILS CAT II landing system at Srinagar Airport is to be done by the Indian Air Force under its Modernisation of Airfield (MAFI) project.

In an Airport Advisory Committee meeting chaired by Dr Farooq Abdullah in capacity of the Member Parliament from Srinagar constituency on August 31, 2020, an IAF representative had informed that the work on ILS CAT 2 will start in November 2021. However, the delay in the project now has disappointed stakeholders especially the tourism traders.

Flight cancellations due to the inclement weather every year causes huge inconvenience to not just the tourists but also the Kashmiri students and patients who need to travel outside Kashmir.

President, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Farooq Kuthu said that the frequent flight cancellations during winter prove to be a dampener for Kashmir tourism, which is witnessing “revival” after more than two years.

“Every time there is a flight cancellation, we have groups of tourists who suffer a lot. If we talk about revival of tourism on one side, we then also ought to have good tourism infrastructure.  The advance landing system is the need of the hour,” Kuthu said.

Meanwhile, he said that the way the tourists had to walk miles in order to reach the airport on Thursday amid massive traffic jams “was quite embarrassing” for the image of Kashmir tourism.

“The AAI and district administrations have been just passing the buck. No one took the responsibility of clearing snow from the approach road and inside the drop gate of the airport which resulted in a complete mess on Thursday. Many of the tourists missed their flights due to the rush and traffic jams,” Kuthu said.

Pertinently, Srinagar airport is under direct operational control of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which controls its air traffic and landing strip and also the facilities of fire-fighting and crash activities, apart from the airspace. The terminal building, where the passengers check-in and check-out, and the apron area, where an aircraft is parked are controlled by the AAI. The airport witnesses operations of 25-30 commercial flights every day.

When contacted Director, Srinagar Airport, Santosh Dhoke said the advance landing system once installed will help reduce flight cancellations.

On the chaos caused by “sloppy snow clearance” outside and inside the drop gate of airport, Dhoke said: “Snow clearance from outside area to the airport drop gate to terminal building is undertaken by the BRO and local administration while runway and operation area is cleared by the BRO. The snowfall was quite heavy this time but we ensured to utilise men and machinery round the clock to clear the snow,” Dhoke said.