Mumbai, May 18, 2018: With a key navigation aid switched off for upgrade, the city airport witnessed severe air traffic congestion leading to an average 45 to 60-minute delays in arrivals and departures on Friday. Close to 230 arrivals and 350 departures were delayed, according to flightradar24, a flight tracking app.
The Instrument Landing System (ILS), a life-saver for congested airports, will not be available on runway 27 till June 5 as new and better equipment is being installed. “With no ILS, the separation between aircraft approaching to land is now up from 10km to about 12km. Each aircraft takes longer to carry out an approach, touch down and vacate the runway. As the day progresses, the airspace gets more and more congested,” said a senior air traffic controller.
A senior airline commander said: “Normally, we are instructed to carry out 1-2 holds (the circling above a city) over Mumbai when coming in to land. On Friday evening, most pilots had to carry out 4-5 holds according to aviationindia.net .”
One holding pattern is completed in about six minutes. “Most flights to Mumbai would have flown in with extra fuel to avoid a diversion,” he added.
Passengers scheduled to travel into or out of the city this month, especially those booked on morning and evening peak-hour flights, could expect similar delays.
With the ILS on the main runway switched off from Thursday, delays had begun from last night itself. Weather woes added to it in the morning as strong winds whipped runway 27, forcing flight operations to be moved to secondary runway 14 between 9.53am and 11.40am, said a Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd spokesperson. Though the ILS on runway 14 was operational, it isn’t as efficient as runway 27 as it has a poor taxiway network and so landing aircraft take longer to vacate the runway post touchdown. Also, the day saw a lot of charter movement, which tends to slow down air traffic.