While theories abound on the possible cause of the incident in which a tyre of an Air India Express flight hit the boundary wall of the Trichy airport, the lack of sufficient length for the airport runway here has been cited as one of the reasons. Aviation circles point out that the airport is known to possess one of the shortest runways at 8,136 feet.
V B Jaganath of Trichy Intra-City Development Endeavors (TIDES) points out that Airports Authority of India has been striving for a decade to acquire the required land to expand the runway length to 12,000 feet. However, it has been getting delayed because of problems in acquiring defence land. “The airport runway expansion project has been pending for almost a decade for want of land. In fact, land acquisition has been speeded up in all other airports in the state except the international airport here, clearly sidelining the interests of Trichy”, he alleged.
Aviation analyst H Ubaidullah said that there had been previous incidents of Air Asia and Air India Express flights skipping Trichy airport to land during emergency situations due to insufficient runway length. “There have been instances of snag-hit flights near Trichy preferring nearby airports with larger runway like Chennai and Bangalore for safe emergency landing as Trichy airport has insufficient runway length. To avert untoward incidents like the Mangalore accident in 2010, Trichy airport’s runway length must be expanded”, he opined.
When asked, airport director K Gunasekaran said that the runway expansion issue would be discussed at the Trichy airport advisory committee meeting scheduled to be held during the last week of this month. It may be noted that out of the 510 acres of area required for runway expansion, 345 acres comprising government porambokku as well as wet and dry land had already been acquired by AAI. The remaining 165 acres of defence land was being attached. However, to acquire it, the state government has to find alternative land.