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June 5, 2010

Taxiway lights a nightmare for pilots

Filed under: Airports — aerotowfeeq @ 9:41 pm
Tags: , ,

Recent runway incursions and near misses between planes have put the Mumbai airport in the news for all the wrong reasons. Already struggling to withstand heavy traffic, Mumbai airport is turning into a nightmare for pilots because of circuit problems that turn the taxiway lights off from time to time.

On May 27, an Indigo airbus overshot the taxiway and entered the runway. That led to a near hit with a Jet Airways plane about to land. The Indigo pilot later said the taxiway lights were off and hence, he could not spot the turn he was supposed to take.

Instead of treating the May 27 incident as a wake-up call, the airport authorities seem to  have learnt nothing, which was proved by the fact that on Wednesday and Thursday, lights on as many as five taxiways functioned intermittently.

On Wednesday  night, lights on taxiways  code named E, E-4, P and P-3 worked intermittently, while on Thursday night, lights on the busy N1 taxiway went off for some time.

Said a Mumbai airport official on condition of anonymity, “In the event of the lights going off on the taxiway, it should be shut immediately. But in the event where three to four taxiways have to be shut, delays can taken place. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has made it mandatory to provide follow-me vehicles to guide the planes when the lights go off.” Accordingly, follow me vehicles were provided to planes on Wednesday and Thursday.

When Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) took over the city airport in 2006  from Airport Authority of India (AAI), a blue print of underground utilities was provided to them but MIAL sources said no such plan was handed to them.

An MIAL spokeperson confirmed that taxiway lights were not functioning. According to him, cables were damaged during construction at airport some time ago. “The cables were later restored but we think there is a problem with the joints,” he said.

The problem has triggered a blame game of sorts between MIAL and AAI. Said an MIAL official, “We have inherited a legacy from the AAI. The airside infrastructure has been organised in a particular way and this includes the cables. We are addressing all the issues.  New cables were laid in newly constructed ducts when runway 14/32 was relaid. Similarly, a network will be laid when we start work on runway 09/27,” he said.

However, source said N1 taxiway was built after MIAL took over. “How can they blame AAI legacy for the problem?” asked an AAI official.


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