THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Airline companies which operate services in the state, especially to and from the Kochi airport (CIAL), are keeping their fingers crossed as the water level in the Periyar is rising after the shutters of the Idamalayar and Cheruthoni reservoirs were lifted. The companies will have to incur huge operational cost in case of flight diversions to neighbouring airports if the Kochi airport is closed.
The Kochi airport was shut down in 2013 for two days after water flooded the runway and the parking bay. But more than operational losses, the airlines are worried more about aircraft being marooned in the airport in the event of flooding. A senior Air India Express officer told Express they have hauled up an aircraft meant for Kochi airport at Madurai last night as the airline company couldn’t afford an aircraft being stuck in an airport due to flooding.
If a couple of aircraft of an airline company is marooned in an airport due to flooding or some other reasons, the entire schedule of the company would get affected. And for an airline company, aircraft being stuck in airports is a serious issue than incurring operational expenditure due to flight diversion, he said. Hence, the airlines are monitoring the developments at the Kochi airport than anyone else as it has the potential to upset the entire schedule of a company which has a base in the affected airport.
For an airport operator, flooding in a runway will leave a huge loss in terms of losing the landing and parking fees. But more than that, the strength of the runway (the subgrade PCN) will be get affected if the runway lies submerged in water for a long time, which is unlikely at the Kochi airport in the present scenario, said Jacob K Philip, a Doha-based aviation analyst, who conducted pre-feasibility study for the Kochi airport in 1991.
Though the CIAL is far ahead than other airports in the state in terms of integrating latest technologies for the smooth operation of aircraft, it is better avoiding landing and take off from a waterlogged runway as friction between tyres of the aircraft and runway surface gets reduced, affecting the braking system, which can pose danger while landing, he said.
CIAL authorities told Express though the airport was shut down for the landing of aircraft for around two hours on Thursday, there are no issues in the airport as of now as the water level is still under control in the canal which passes adjacent to the runway, linking with Periyar. The runway and apron area are in perfect condition and preparations have been made to keep flight operations safe, they said.
Airport authorities clueless
The airport authorities are still clueless on the impact of the release of water on the airport as this is the first time in the history of CIAL that the shutters of the Cheruthoni reservoir were opened. The state govt has instructed the authorities of Trivandrum airport to get prepared to receive aircraft meant for Kochi airport if the CIAL is closed.