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Safety of Flight Operations in India during

the Monsoons

FIA recently sought views of its airline members, to suggest specific measures for the Monsoon period - both from the point of view of safety of operations, and also from the point of handling weather related disruptions in an effective manner.

Below is a collation of the Airline suggestions on safe-operations in wet runway conditions. FIA has requested the Ministry of Civil Aviation to have these suggestions studied and implemented.

Airline suggestions : FIA Note

  1. The Runways should be cleaned of Rubber deposits to regain R/W friction. Cleaning of rubber deposits at the touch down zone on the runway will increase the friction levels. This procedure needs to be followed at all our Indian airports; and the friction coefficient given to the crew during adverse weather conditions, as a part of the ATIS / APPROACH.

    It is obligatory on the part of Airport Operators to thoroughly inspect the runway and taxiways immediately before the monsoon or during the dry spell.

    With the present technology the airport authorities should be able to identify the weak spots well before the monsoons. [The closure of main runway at Mumbai during peak period of monsoon to cover the potholes could have been avoided].

  2. The Runway surface conditions during the monsoon should be informed to the pilots, i.e. whether the runway is damp/wet or contaminated & if contaminated, the depth of the contaminant, so that appropriate performance penalties may be applied before a take-off or approach is initiated.

  3. During the Monsoon period, the Airport authorities should ensure that Weather radar; radio aids; & airport lighting (approach, runway and taxi/ramp) are serviceable.

  4. Weather Radars should be a must for enhancing traffic control especially at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Nagpur and Ahmedabad. All these places should have APPROACH / SSR RADAR. This will facilitate radar approaches by vectoring the air traffic accordingly

  5. The airports which are equipped with weather radar should have a dynamic departure / arrival procedure to avoid intense precipitation areas. Where the airports are not equipped with a weather radar, the pilot's request for avoidance of weather should be acceded to, with a cross check on traffic and terrain clearance.

  6. Upgradation of non precision approaches to precision approaches on runways not serviced by an ILS.

  7. Provision of RVR at every international airport. RVR must be installed on all operational runways.

    [In Mumbai runway 14 has no RVR, consequently during the last deluge when ILS on runway 27 was not available and strong tail winds on runway 09 made operations difficult, runway 14 could not be used due higher minima. Even runway 09 has no RVR facility. In effect the only runway with RVR in Mumbai is runway 27].

  8. In the Monsoon weather conditions, it may be appropriate from a safety perspective to increase the minima for safe operations.

  9. Improve Weather forecasts in India. Latest METARS and TAFORS with significant weather trends should also be made available on HF weather frequencies so that early diversions can be initiated and /or additional uplift of fuel be catered for holding delays due to weather.

  10. Invest in Runway Safety Area (RSA) improvements and explore use of Engineered Materials Arresting Systems (EMAS) incase safety areas fall short of international runway safety benchmarks.

    The Airport Authority should declare information about runway lengths; gaps from acknowledged safety benchmarks; RSA lengths; use of EMAS; and plans for improvements, for all commercial airports in India.

  11. Provision of more parking bays at airports that are designated as diversion airfields so that they can accommodate more diverted aircraft.

  12. Alternate airports: Airports like Mumbai are prone to heavy disruptions including closure for limited period due to flooding. There are hardly any airports where the flights could be diverted. In fact during the last deluge when Mumbai airport was temporarily closed, all nearby airports like Ahmedabad, Baroda, Hyderabad were full and refused to accept any more aircraft.

    Smaller airports like Aurangabad, Indore, Goa and Pune should be positively made available in such contingencies. The initiative should come from AAI. Designated alternates should be made available at the time of actual diversion to avoid a fuel emergency.

  13. Airport operators should ensure that airports prone to water logging should have an effective drainage system in place.

  14. From an operations point of view, DGCA could help the airlines in the following areas:

    • Reactivate the procedure of reporting of Sector Visibility.
    • Reactivate 10 % discretion given to PIC on visibility reported.

  15. All airports to be advised that priority to be given for startup to aircrafts which have diverted. This is most helpful for flights operating to / from Mumbai & Delhi. This had been agreed upon during the Fog days also and was of immense help.

  16. Increase the no. of R/T frequencies to avoid R/T congestion and step over of frequencies thus saving time.

  17. The airports should re-double their efforts to reduce bird activity in and around the airports during the monsoon period.

  18. Additionally, the following relating to monsoon restrictions has also been suggested by carriers:

    • Blanket restrictions on aircraft systems during "Monsoon Period" may be reviewed. Airlines have the responsibility for safety and should be held accountable for operating as per the approved operating manual, maintenance manual and safety manual.

    • The special qualification requirements for the monsoon period should be eliminated since the monsoon qualification requirements for pilots was implemented when there were no precision instrument approach aids, such as ILS, GPS, etc. There needs to be a review on these as both aircraft systems and pilot training on those systems undergo improvements.

  19. Establishment of AOCC - in most of the countries where intense visibility or severe weather conditions like icing, fog etc the AOCC is activated. The AOCC consists of Aerodrome Operators, Airline Operators, agencies like ATC / MET who receive upto date weather deterioration information on a continuous basis as also weather outlook for the next 12/24 hours. This information is available to the airlines to plan / delay their flights. This is particularly so for long haul flights to be better equipped with upliftment of extra fuel etc.