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Why Patna airport is a disaster waiting to happen

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Inadequate runway length, location and traffic make Patna’s Jai Prakash Narayan International Airport susceptible to danger.

New Delhi: Two planes of SpiceJet and Indigo suffered bird hits during landing at Patna’s Jai Prakash Narayan International Airport last Saturday, and both had to cancel their onwards journey.

The incident, though, is nothing out of the ordinary for the Patna airport. There are several factors that contribute to make the airport one of the most dangerous in the country.

Inadequate runway

With a runway length of just 2,072 metres — of which 1,938 metres is for landing from the east and 1,677 metres for landing from the west— the Patna airport is prone to air disasters.

As per data from the Federal Aviation Administration, US, the adequate runway length required for a safe landing of Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s is 2,300 metres. These are the two major types of passenger planes that usually fly in and out of Patna airport.

Middle of the city

Unlike other cities where airports are located on the outskirts, Patna has its airport right in the middle. This makes the residential population extremely vulnerable.

Runway expansion too is impossible as the airport is sandwiched between the Patna Zoo and the Phulwari Sharif railway station. The trees in the zoo even act as a potential obstacle for aircrafts. Moreover, due to the surrounding trees, lots of birds fly near the airport. A clock tower with a height of 333 feet, a part of the Patna Secretariat, is another obstacle for planes during landing at the airport.

Getting busier

The airport handled 2,273 flights in April 2018, a considerable rise of 37.9 per cent over 1,648 flights for the same month in 2017.

The number of passengers has also increased. The airport handled more than 3.3 lakh passengers in April 2018, compared to 2.2 lakh in April 2017. In March this year, the airport was given the green light to function round the clock.

An operation-in-charge at the Patna airport told ThePrint that “new parking space, fire station, and cargo complex will be built in the upcoming months to cater to the increasing population.”

Last disaster

In July 2000, Alliance Air Flight 7412 had crashed in a residential area in Patna resulting in the death of 51 passengers and crew members. Four people on the ground too were killed. The flight, incoming from Kolkata, scrapped through a few trees before crashing to the ground.

Bihta Airport

As a result of all this pressure, a new airport is scheduled to be built at Bihta on the outskirts of Patna by the end of 2019.

According to a report from CAPA, Patna Airport director Rajendra Singh Lahauria had said the Patna district administration acquired and transferred 108 acres of land to Airport Authority of India for the development of the new airport. The Bihta airport will provide a safe alternative for aircrafts to land.

Till then, it seems that the disaster-prone Patna airport is to be trusted. The Patna Airport director declined to comment on the story.

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  1. why not consider taking the railway line underground and acquiring land to extend runway 25? that should be a cheaper, quicker to implement type of solution.

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