KIA’s old runway to be closed for upgrade in March

Despite the December 5 launch of the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA)’s second runway, passengers and airlines will have to wait another 10 months to get the full benefit. Reason: the existing runway is set for an eight-month closure for resurfacing and upgrade.

Once the New South Parallel Runway (NSPR) begins full operation with CAT-IIIB Instrument Landing System (ILS) by late February, the existing North Runway is likely to be shut down for commercial flights in March 2020.

The runway’s upgrade to a CAT-IIIB ILS from its current CAT-I stage will require a complete resurfacing. Aviation analysts say the runway now lacks the centre-line lighting for an upgrade that will allow flights to land and take off even in low visibility.

Certified only for CAT I operations, the runway has been a trigger for mega disruptions ever since the airport’s commercial launch in May 2008. Landings and take-offs of flights are delayed in hundreds every year, as thousands of passengers have their travel schedules in complete disarray.

These disruptions could have been entirely avoided if the brains behind the greenfield airport had opted for CAT IIIB. Although cost was a factor, aviation sources recalled that the geography of the Devanahalli area and its peculiar local climate that aided fog during winter was not taken into account.

Current limitations

Besides resurfacing, the runway’s shoulders too would require an upgrade to accommodate heavier Code F aircraft. This would also mean new, upgraded taxiways and lighting systems. It is estimated that all these new additions can be built only by October 2020.

Under a grossly ill-equipped CAT-I ILS system, the pilot of an approaching aircraft will have to see the runway surface markings from a distance (Runway Visual Range – RVR) of more than 550 metres (1,800ft).

The Decision Height (DH, the decision to land or not land) should be taken at an altitude of over 60m (200ft). However, once the runway is upgraded to CAT-III, the RVR will reduce to about 200m (around 700ft) and the DH will drop to less than 30m (100ft).

On the operations front, the number of Air Traffic Movements (ATMs include both landings and take-offs) are expected to increase to 90 per hour once both the runways are fully operational. Airlines are likely to introduce more flights to and from KIA only after November 2020.

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