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Jet take-off turns airport sheets into missiles

Living near the airport may be the most cherished dream of a frequent flyer, but for others the constant tumult, traffic jams etc are annoyances they can do without. And then there’s the unexpected.


Sheet happens! Nine fibre sheets — part of jet blast deflectors (JBD) — along with iron panels were sent flying from the airport periphery wall. Pics/Sunil Tiwari

“It was 2.50 am. I was smoking at the main entrance of my house. A big blue aircraft took off and for the next 15 seconds I could only hear a deafening noise. I was scared and went inside, coming out only after 15 minutes. I saw big fibre-coated iron panels lying on the shanty next to mine. I thought someone had dropped them from the aircraft and so decided not to come out of the house till morning,” said Mohammed Ali (name changed), a resident of Shastri Nagar slum of Jhari-Mari, which is hardly 20 metres away from the boundary wall of Mumbai airport.


Exposed: The gap in the jet blast deflector in front of a localiser antenna had not been repaired till yesterday evening, despite claims to the contrary by airport authorities. Pic/Sunil Tiwari

Up in the air
Nine fibre sheets — part of jet blast deflectors (JBD) — along with iron panels were sent flying at the airport by the exhaust of a jet plane taking off in the wee hours of Monday. At 2.50 am a wide-body international cargo jet took off from main runway 09. The impact of the gust generated was so much that a major portion of the JBD (read box) was sent soaring above Andheri-Kurla Road, with sections landing on nearby shanties.

On one side of the road is the Mumbai airport boundary wall; runway 09 is about 50 metres away from it. On the other side are these shanties and a few wood and ply shops. A total of nine fibre sheets and iron panels from the JBD took to the air. Four of these hit the ground inside the airport boundary. However, the other five landed on the shanties. “Ten of us were sleeping when we heard a loud noise on the rooftop. We were really scared and only had the courage to open our door at 7 in the morning. Our temporary roof is badly damaged due to the impact of these sheets. Our stock of wood is getting spoilt because of the intermittent rain,” said Mohammed Nasir (name changed), who works at Star Wood Traders on Andheri-Kurla Road. Three fibre sheets and two iron panels landed on this shop.

The residents have been handed out hope by the airport authority, which has promised to pay for the damages. “Now we are putting up a temporary plastic cover to patch up the smashed roof. Airport officials came to us and promised that our impairments will be compensated for,” added Nasir.

Directionless?
Meanwhile, four of the fourteen localiser antennas at the airport, which as integral part of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) guide pilots onto the centreline of the runway even when visibility is poor, were damaged in this incident. Airports Authority of India (AAI) sources said the localiser antenna for runway 09 was shifted in late March 2012 to a position closer to the end of the runway. “It was done with the intention of allowing unfettered movement of ground vehicles of Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) behind the localiser antenna across the approach path of runway 27,” an AAI official said on condition of anonymity. Officials also maintained that repair of this antenna may take some time and the loss would adversely affect flight operations. 

Airport authority speaks
MIAL did not elaborate much on the incident. “A portion of blast fence of runway 16.5 metre in length has been blown off, resulting in operations memo sent to ATC with revised declared distances with immediate effect. However, operations were normal as the secondary runway was in use,” an MIAL spokesperson told MiD DAY. According to the spokesperson, the JBD was repaired. However, MiD DAY photographed the site at
6 pm on Monday evening and the damaged portion appeared untouched. The air safety wing of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is currently investigating the matter.

What is JBD?
A jet blast deflector redirects the high-energy exhaust from a jet engine to prevent damage and injury. The structure must be strong enough to withstand heat and high-speed air streams as well as dust and debris carried by the turbulent air. Without a deflector, jet blast can be dangerous to people, equipment and other aircraft. 

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