No helicopter was allowed to ply from the airport between 7.30 am and 3.30 pm yesterday; officials said accumulated water was later pumped out and services resumed
Heavy showers yesterday caused the Juhu aerodrome to shut its operation for eight hours. The entire landing strip was flooded with water up to two feet, and no choppers were allowed to ply.
RWSI, a non-profit body which promotes the helicopter industry, says waterlogging is a regular feature at Juhu airport, despite the authorities charging high licence and rental fees
K S L. Narsimhan, joint general manager of the Juhu airport, said, “Due to waterlogging on the runway, I cannot permit operations to take place. Hence, the runway was shut and no operations were carried out from 7.30 am to 3.30 pm.”
Senior officials said that the water was later pumped out and normalcy in schedule resumed 3.30 pm onwards. The choppers are vital to the employees who work on oil rigs off the coast, as they transport them back to land after their shift is over.
'Fix the problem'
The Juhu airport is used by helicopters and small fixed-wing aircraft. Its secondary runway - 16/34 - handles 40 per cent of the load.
The Rotary Wing Society of India, a Delhi-based not-for-profit organisation working towards promoting civil and military helicopter industry in India, has written to the AAI (letter copy with mid-day), requesting it to improve the poor condition of the airport.
States the letter: ‘The entire airport, including the runway, is under 1-2 feet of water. Though the rains were not as heavy as normally experienced in Mumbai, this airport is already under deep water. Any more accumulation would have resulted in many helicopters going underwater.
This is reminiscent of what happened in July 2005, when this airport went 4-5 feet deep below the water, resulting in damages to helicopters worth hundreds of crores. Since then, what has AAI done to remedy the situation?’ The later also cites past visits by various AAI heads, who promised to bring in improvements. Yet, nothing has been done.
“We request you to kindly give priority to this airport for improving its infrastructure. It is not out of place to mention that this airport has the largest number of helicopters and highest intensity of choppers flying as compared to any other airport in the country. You are requested to kindly look into our grievances and remedy the situation at the earliest possible,” it adds.
Caption Uday Gelli, president (western region), RWSI, explained, “The operators based in this airport are burdened under huge costs by way of high rental charges (licence fee), space rentals, paved land charges, etc.
Additionally, a letter was circulated a few months ago that AAI intends to levy an additional 10 per cent on space rental charges as utility/facilitation charges! We believe that this airport levies some of the highest charges in the country and, yet, are being provided substandard services.” He further added, “There are huge promises made, but flooding has become a recurring situation here.”
V K Puniyal, director, Juhu Airport said, “Juhu airport is like a saucer and the reverse flow of water results in its accumulation. Moreover, the drains are not working. We will, however, raise the height of the runway which experiences waterlogging.”
Agreeing that there is a risk to choppers due to the accumulated water, Puniyal said, “As of now, there is no plan for this situation. We depend on the drains made by BMC. We have a long-term plan to increase the level of the runway to avoid this problem.”