City airport in a runway dilemma

Choice between a quick upgrade of current runway or an early second one
Last Updated 20 March 2014, 20:45 IST

Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) is in a spot of bother. The airport cannot wait till 2017-18 to get a second runway, if the existing 4,000m runway’s capacity is not quickly enhanced from 30 Air Transport Movements (ATM’s) per hour to 46 ATM’s/hour.

Its airfield and airspace constrained by the close proximity of the Yelahanka and HAL airports, KIA without a Code F runway will also miss the Airbus 380.

The launch of KIA’s Terminal 1A that doubled the capacity of the original terminal did make the airport compatible for A380’s post-landing operations. Many airlines had even urged the airport operators to permit A380 landings following the Centre’s approval in January. But Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) opted to wait till a Code F runway materialises. Reason: To accommodate the heavy A380, the existing runway would have to be closed for long durations for smaller aircraft, triggering massive disruptions in schedules.


The 30 ATM’s/hour capacity of the current runway translates to 12.9 million passengers per annum (mppa). The runway has a width of 45 metres with a parallel taxiway, three Rapid Exit Taxiways (RET) and one 90-degree taxiway. Upgrading this runway would mean reducing separations between arrivals and departures from seven to three nautical miles, improving airspace management systems / Air Traffic Control (ATC) procedures and adding more RETs to improve runway occupancy time.
To implement these measures by 2014/15, BIAL is learnt to have established a Joint Working Group with Ministry of Civil Aviation, Airports Authority of India, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Indian Air Force. But the airport’s operations could be overstretched if these facility improvements are not in place soon.The second runway will then be required well before 2017-18, contended BIAL sources.

Wide-bodied aircraft

Once enhanced, KIA’s existing runway will be able to handle 20 million annual passengers. Due to its current constraints, only seven per cent of the air traffic is made up of wide-bodied aircraft.

Based on the current fleet mix, the number of passengers could go up to 115 per aircraft. The Mumbai airport handles an average of 130 passengers per aircraft. The proportion of wide-bodied aircraft is 15 per cent, more than twice that of KIA.

But upgrading the current runway will not avoid flight delays, diversions and other disruptions due to fog that affect visibility. The New South Parallel Runway (NSPR) (second runway), with a Category III-B rating, will be designed to address this issue. During winter, the fog issue gets critical and with rise in air traffic, it could only get worse.

The additional runway is also expected to ease KIA’s air space constraints. Currently, the airport shares its space with the Yelahanka IAF airport on the West and HAL Airport on the South. Direct approach and landing are thus ruled out. Besides, operations cannot be optimised to the fullest since radar headings too are shared with the other two airports.

The lateral separation between KIA and IAF airports is about three nautical miles. IAF had contended that this would be down to two NM if a new runway comes up 1.5 km to the South.   

(Published 20 March 2014, 20:45 IST)

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