If it’s broken, don’t fix it. That seems to be the disposition of Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials towards runway 16/34 at Juhu aerodrome. MiD DAY had reported on May 15 (‘AAI officers wanted to shut down Juhu runway to help buildings stand tall’) how some officials attempted to mislead the appellate committee of aviation ministry, Government of India, through their report, stating that the runway is not fit for operations, allegedly to help some developers with proposed projects in the area.
It has now been revealed that runway 16/34 has been in poor shape for more than six months. Several airline operators have reported the problem to authorities, who are yet to fix the runway, reportedly due to crisis of funds. According to recent NOTAMs (notices to airmen) from AAI, runway 16/34 is very much operational.
Won’t mend ways?
Letters written by private airline operators to AAI and recent images of runway 16/34 (available with MiD DAY) tell quite a story. “The matter is in the notice of Juhu airport authority and regional executive director’s (RED) office, Western Region, AAI. Several operators have complained about the runway condition not being suitable for operations. An official of general manager rank has clearly said in his recent letter to the RED that 16/34 is used for operations and repairing of the taxiway must be done at the earliest,” said an AAI source.
One of the letters (copy with MiD DAY) written by the chief of flight safety from a leading corporate house owning chopper operations clearly authenticates the above loopholes. “Our pilots have been reporting about the bad taxiway surface from Deccan Charters apron to runway 26 (runway 16/34 falls in this area). We have had incidents of tyre deflation in the past during taxiing. Presently, due to this problem, our pilots have resorted to hover taxi to the runway,” the letter reads. MiD DAY is in possession of other correspondences from corporate houses to the authorities, which are on the same lines. Recent photographs available with MiD DAY, further substantiate the apathetic attitude of AAI officers towards this runway. Sizable depressions are clearly visible in the images.
Juhu aerodrome director M Yadagiri confirmed that his office has received letters about the sorry state of runway 16/34. “We have been getting complaints time and again about the runway condition of 16/34. The entire stretch will undergo repairs very soon.” General manager for AAI in Western Region, VSP Chinson, refused to comment on the issue. “I am on leave so I would not be able to make a statement,” said Chinson.