Are authorities waiting for a disaster at Patna airport?
- Runway of Patna airport shorter than Kozhikode airport
- No increase in Runway size in last five years, no plan to relocate
- No safety audit of the size of Patna airport’s runway by the AAI
The crash of the Air India Express plane at Kozhikode airport on August 7 that killed 19 people raised a serious question about the safety of Indian airports. According to reports, the mishap took place when the plane overshot the ideal landing point and overran the runway.
This tragic incident brought the spotlight back on risky airports in India and some of them have really short runways. The Jaiprakash Narayan International Airport at Patna is a case in point.
To know about the flow of traffic, size of runway and security audit of the runway at Patna Airport, India Today filed a Right to Information (RTI) query with the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
We inquired about the length of the runway at Patna Airport. In response, the AAI Patna said, “Length of the Runway of Patna [is] 2072 M”.
We also asked if it has been increased in the last five years. The AAI responded “No, this has not been increased in the last five years.”
Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s are majorly the types of passenger planes that fly in and out of Patna airport. So, we asked, what is the ideal runway length for the safe landing of Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s? AAI refused to answer it saying “Data is Pertaining to Airline Operators / Agencies.”
As per data from the Federal Aviation Administration, United States, the adequate runway length required for a safe landing of such Aircraft is 2,300 metres. This means that the 2,072 available at Patna is not adequate. It is even less than the length of Kozhikode airport’s tabletop runway which is about 2,700 metres.
Answering the question if the Patna Airport has done any safety audit of the length of the Airport the AAI said, “No, such type of audit [has] not [been] done.”
If you board a flight from somewhere to Patna, it is quite normal to see how pilots have to brake violently. It seems small runway makes smooth landing for big aircrafts difficult.
India Today also asked if there is any plan to shift the present Patna Airport somewhere else. The AAI has no such information. It said, “This information is not known to this office.”
This is in contrast to news reports, which comes at frequent intervals that ministry of civil aviation plans to relocate Patna airport to Bihta.
We also asked for five year data on the number of landings at the Patna Airport. The AAI said, “It is to bring to your kind notice that as per Section 3.9.1 of MATS (Manual of Air Traffic Services) Part I, issued by ED (ATM), CHQ, AAI; ‘Air Traffic Returns’ are preserved / retained for a period of 3 Years only. Kindly find below in the Table, the total number of landing (Arrivals only) on yearly basis-”
Annual year Total number of landings (Arrivals only)
This shows that in the last two years, the number of planes landing at the Patna Airport went up by 5,170, from 12,099 arrivals in 2017-18 to 17,269 in year 2019-20. In the last one year itself the number of flights went up by 1,311.
Substantial increase in air traffic, a shorter-than-recommended runway, and no plan to relocate the airport to somewhere else paint a scary picture of the Patna airport. It seems that Patna airport is living in the past and an ideal candidate for a disaster in the making.