Chennai Airport Loses Face - The New Indian Express

Chennai Airport Loses Face

Published: 06th April 2014 04:31 PM

Last Updated: 06th April 2014 04:34 PM

Though panels of glass falling and shattering around the Chennai Airport's new terminals have become almost a monthly occurence, Sunday morning's incident was a shocker by all counts. One solid strengthened glass panel (1.5x2.5 m) that is part of the exterior facade of the new airport terminals, came crashing down from a height of about 30 feet above the first floor - and the glass splintered and made it's way all the way down to the ground floor, which is a drop of over 100 feet.

Coming just a few days shy of a year since the new Rs 2100 crore terminals were opened for use, it is a major embarassment for Airports Authority of India (AAI)- having swept all the other pieces of cracked glass under the carpet by calling them "teething trouble", officials had no answer to what could have been potentially fatal for passersby except to admit that it was a "grave risk and a real shame".

Over the past year, glass panels at various parts of the airport have splintered, cracked and fallen almost 15 times - the most recent being when a glass door shattered on the tarmac side last week.

People who were lining up to make enquiries outside the IndiGo counter and those waiting to enter Gate No 4 of the departure level (upper floor) had the shock of their lives when the panel came unstuck and hit the ground with a resounding crash.

"It was 9 am and we were just finishing up with the morning rush, when there was a loud sound from downstairs. When we went and saw, the glass panel had fallen nearly 100 feet and shattered over the plants on the ground level. Only a family was sitting nearby but luckily no one was injured," said a CISF constable on duty.

Luck was indeed smiling on people in the vicinity, as the space beneath the panels on the upper floor was an open space that overlooked the garden downstairs - ensuring that the panels hit an area that very few people would walk through, "People sit on the short wall of the landscaped garden area but no one was there today. Its good that it did not fall inside as directly under the fallen panel, TFS has just opened a cafe called cafeccino with a few tables where people were having coffee at the time of the incident," said a person at the IndiGo counter.  

An AAI cleanup team were on site within the hour and cleared most of the glass quickly, but were unable to close the holes because of the elevation. As a result, the air-conditioning inside was compromised because of the large gaping hole in the ceiling, "We will be installing an aluminium sheet to cover the hole soon and the contractor will be called to make repairs soon," said an AAI spokesperson. He also clarified that though the panels look like two separate pieces of glass, they are actually just one with a dividing line, "All the four high-tension screws are in place but it still fell. We are investigating the issue," he added.

A top airport official sadly noted that the only part where the structuring seemed intact was the impressive outside glass facade, but not any longer, "When we conceived the project, it was a dream of the engineering division to have a tall terminal with a full glass wall on the outside just like private companies did in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi. Even the names were written in white on the glass face and it looks impressive in the night with the lighting. It is sad that even that is compromised now," he sighed. The unions will be quietly rejoicing as such incidents that showcase the poor infrastructure at the new airport will further discourage investors who are looking to pick up the contract for privatizing operations at the Chennai Airport.

With several promises of having contractors recheck the ceilings and glass panels for safety not really stemming the rot, AAI will be at a loss for action. At this rate, it may be prudent to move the 'watch your heads' sign from the entrance of planes to everywhere there's glass around the airport - at least for the passengers sakes.

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