Civil flights stuck in the 5G web, a difficult choice

      The recent USA regulatory circular on the affect of 5G network on flight operations has thrown the aircraft makers in a tizzy. The 5G network which has been rolled out in various parts of the world has subscribers drooling with the promise of blazing internet speeds which could download a movie in 5 seconds.  The 5G network affects the operations of the radio altimeter of the aircraft which could interfere with various systems like the automatic landing, Ground Proximity Warning Systems, Displays etc. The two big aircraft makers have approached the FAA to help mitigate the risk by delaying the launch of the 5G network in the USA. The question which arises is, what about the rest of the world where 5G has already been deployed and aircraft flying in and out daily? Well yes, the airline industry would loose billions as the flight operations would get impacted especially in poor visibility conditions. However, there doesn't seem to be any concern towards possible lives being los

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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