Shiva statue in Delhi no more a tall order for DIAL
Touch-down shifted a little away from Runway 29 start point
A 65-feet Shiva statue, close to the landing path of Delhi airport, remains an obstacle to smooth aircraft operation. GMR group-led private airport operator DIAL, however, has found a way to beat the difficulty -- it has shifted the touchdown some 1,460 metre away from the start point of runway 29.
Officials of Airports Authority of India (AAI), a government entity that has leased the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport to DIAL, stated the Shiva statue does not pose any safety threat to aircraft landing. Industry sources, however, said religious sentiments are holding the plan to reduce the height of the statue.
“Jayashree Trust of the Birlas, which manages the complex housing the Shiva idol, has agreed to a DIAL proposal to reduce the additional height of the statue but it wants the engineering work to be done by the airport operator, citing its inexperience in construction. It is willing to bear the cost of reducing the height. But DIAL does not want to take it up due to religious beliefs,” a source said.
The height of the Shiva statue is almost 36-feet more than the length specified in the no-objection certificate (NOC) issued by AAI in November 1989. AAI has repeatedly taken up the issue with the Trust but its management has contested the claim that it breached the terms of the NOC. The statue came up in 1994, much before the runway 29 that was planned in 2006. “It is pertinent to mention here that on November 6, 1989, NOC for height clearance (252.154 metre) ASML (average mean sea level) was issued by AAI to Jayashree Charity Trust for erecting the Shiva statue.
“But the additional height of the Shiva Murty has restricted the aircraft operation of runway 29/11 to only 2,820 metre out of the available runway length of 4,280 metre,” then AAI chairman VP Agrawal had written to the Trust, seeking immediate action to resolve the issue.
As the statues is close to the landing path, the incoming aircrafts land almost 2 kilometre away from the runway start point. This forces pilots to use full brakes and use reverse thrust to slow down while landing. As full length is not available for landing, pilots have to be extra alert and cautious. In addition, during the foggy winters and during low visibility time, pilots prefer to land on the other runway (called 10-28) due to better RVR (runway visibility range).
This further reduces optimum utilisation of the runway (29) that has been constructed at huge cost. “The height of the Shiva statue is not an obstruction with displacement of threshold position. Pilots prefer to land on runway 28 during the winters as visibility is better on this compared to runway 29,” said a pilot of a private airline.
An AAI official said since runway is displaced, the statue is no longer an obstacle but the issue of unused runway remains (for incoming flights). Further, he said operationally there was no issue and even aircraft like A380 can land comfortably. Since the runway is very long even if the initial portion remains unused it does not affect operations, he said.
Meanwhile, DIAL is planning to build another runway (fourth one) at the airport as part of second phase of expansion at an estimated cost of Rs 16,000 crore. The Shiva statue would not affect the proposed runway.