China Air plough's through ground equipment at Chicago in Snow

 An Air China Cargo B-747 ploughed through cargo containers at Chicago Airport on 28th jan 2022, damaging one of her engines. The airport was covered with snow and light snowfall was present when this occurrence took place at nigh around 1600 hrs UTC. METAR text: KORD 281610Z 35008KT 2 1/2SM -SN BKN026 OVC034 M08/M12 A3031 RMK AO2 P0000 T10831117 Conditions at: KORD (CHICAGO O'HARE , IL, US) observed 1610 UTC 28 January 2022 Temperature: -8.3°C (17°F) Dewpoint: -11.7°C (11°F) [RH = 76%] Pressure (altimeter): 30.31 inches Hg (1026.5 mb) Winds: from the N (350 degrees) at 9 MPH (8 knots; 4.1 m/s) Visibility: 2.50 miles (4.02 km) Ceiling: 2600 feet AGL Clouds: broken clouds at 2600 feet AGL overcast cloud deck at 3400 feet AGL Weather: -SN  (light snow) As per media reports there were no injuries to personnel on board or on the ground. Images from social media and Flightradar24 

Strong winds & poor visibility can shut down Calicut airport operations

The airport at Calicut has witnessed 1 accident & 2 serious incidents in the past 3 years where the aircraft have departed the runway surface. The runway is constructed on a tabletop, has hills in close proximity, and experiences heavy rainfall. This makes it a challenging runway to operate to and from. One would expect, additional safety buffers in terms of facilities and infrastructure. Unfortunately, commercial gains have taken priority over safety issues.

If we analyze the runway strip at this airport, one will get an idea of where the safety is headed. Denial is the first step post an accident and the same is the case here. However, the authorities are aware of the safety concerns but have not acted to build safety barriers is a matter of grave concern.

Runway strip as defined in the DGCA, India Civil Aviation Requirement, is a defined area including the runway and stopway, if provided, intended: a) to reduce the risk of damage to aircraft running off a runway; and b) to protect aircraft flying over it during take-off or landing operations. 

In my earlier blogs, I have highlighted the need for providing the runway strip for the safety of aircraft involved in a runway excursion, be it from the side of a runway or the beginning/end. The figure below gives the regulatory requirement that the Calicut airport must comply with in order to meet safety requirements.

DGCA regulatory requirement

Interestingly, in the reply to SafetyMaters RTI, the authorities have stated that the runway meets with the DGCA regulations. They have also issued a letter (not a NOTAM/AIP) to a select few airlines of the conditions under which the airport would be shut down for flight operations since the regulatory requirement for the runway strip is not met at the airport. 

There ought to be a notification in the form of a Notice to Airman or an Aeronautical Information Publication that informs all users who may elect to use the airport under normal operation or arising out of an emergency.

Airport letter stating non-compliance with regulations

Reply to the RTI

The letter mentions that the regulatory requirement is not met due to terrain and land constraints. However, the fact is that the construction of the runway strip of 300m was always practicable and not a constraint. The construction tenders have been floated by the airport authorities but after a delay of a few years and a tragic accident.

Legal definition: Practicable means reasonably practicable having regard among other things to local conditions and circumstances, to the current state of technical knowledge, and to the financial implications.

If the airport earns good revenues from the passenger and cargo movement in high number, what is the harm in investing some amount towards safety? The NGO dedicated to building a generative safety culture. #becausesafetymatters 


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