The Navy has decided to shut Goa's Dabolim airport for six hours every Saturday from November 2 for the maintenance of its runway which is in a deteriorating condition following heavy rains, an official said on Wednesday. The Dabolim Airport is part of the naval airbase of INS Hansa and also doubles up as a civilian facility.
The closure will not affect the airport's civilian operations as they would be carried out during the time allotted for naval sorties, a Navy spokesperson said. "The Navy held a meeting with the Airports Authority of India and all airline operators, including chartered flight operators, on August 1 to discuss the winter flight schedule on weekends in order to facilitate periodic maintenance of the Goa airport's runway," he said.
"The excessively heavy rains this monsoon season have adversely affected the runway surface," he added. After extensive discussions, all stakeholders agreed upon the requirement of runway maintenance slot of six hours - from 6.30 am to 12.30 pm every Saturday, he said. "Many major airports in the country have runway maintenance slots of six to seven hours. The requirement of minimum six hours is necessary in Goa to prevent deterioration of the runway surface.
The Navy is mandated by regulations to ensure satisfactory condition of the runway surface," he said. The proposed maintenance slot affects only one flight of chartered operator Thomson Airways from the United Kingdom, he informed. "The operator was offered additional slots to cater to their requirements which was accepted by their local manager and also all other airline operators," he said. The Navy has always been accommodating civil/chartered flights during military slots in case of delays and other contingencies, the spokesperson said.
Also, all maintenance activities till date are being undertaken during military flying slots only to ensure least affect on civil aircraft operations, he said, adding that this has affected operational military missions in the past.
The non-availability of the six-hour maintenance slot will lead to faster deterioration of the runway, where re- surfacing was done just four years ago in a very restricted timeline so that civil operations were not disturbed. "It is to be kept in mind that the availability of runway for maintenance is vital for the safeoperations and safety of passengers," he added.
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