Irregular flights from Arunachal airports

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

In the last few years, many airports have been refurbished and made operational for commercial flights in Arunachal Pradesh. Commercial fixed-wing flights have already started from Pasighat, Tezu and Ziro. Commercial fixed-wing flights are planned to commence in the near future from Hollongi (Itanagar) and Mechukha (Shi-Yomi district) also.

However, whenever there is bad weather, flights are erratic and are often cancelled. Since flights get cancelled frequently, there is a risk of missing onward flights, hotel bookings, medical/business appointments, etc. Therefore, many travelers are booking flights from reliable airports like Dibrugarh, Guwahati, etc. On the flipside, since there are less passengers, routes are not economically viable and many airlines may not sustain regular flights from these destinations.

This is occurring since airports in Arunachal are not equipped with equipments like instrument landing system (ILS), VOR, etc, which help pilots and aircraft to land during bad weather like poor visibility, rain, clouds, fog, etc.

Equipments like ILS and VOR are very expensive and have stringent criteria for installation, which many airports in Arunachal may not meet. There may be need to carry out eviction of encroachment and demolish high-rise buildings near airports to meet these stringent criteria. Therefore, alternative solutions are needed to ensure regular flight operations.

The world over, an alternative bad weather landing procedure called required navigational performance (RNP) is being accepted and being implemented in many airports. These RNP charts cater for obstructions around airports and cater for 3 degree glide path approaches and landings based on pre-identified points. With increased accuracies of GPS/satellite systems, inertial navigation systems, RNP is providing a cheaper alternative to ILS/VOR, etc. RNP charts are prepared and published for all airports. In fact, RNP is being used at newly operated airports like Deogarh (Jharkhand) and Shirdi (Maharashtra).

RNP charts are normally prepared and published by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The government of Arunachal needs to take up a case with the AAI to prepare and publish RNP charts for Pasighat, Tezu, Hollongi, Ziro, Mechukha, etc. Once these RNP charts are prepared and published, flights will not be cancelled due to bad weather, unless cyclone or storm hits the area.

Once cleared to operate with RNP charts, flights to and from remote airports like Pasighat, Tezu, Hollongi, Ziro, Mechukha etc, would operate regularly without cancellations. Without frequent cancellations, other airlines would also be interested in flying to/from these airports. Finally, operating flights have to be economically viable for the airlines.

Now that the hard work has been done to build the infrastructure at these airports, the other ‘soft requirements’ of creating RNP charts should be followed up and implemented at the earliest. This will allow regular flying from/to Arunachal airports without cancellations and worries. Happy flying! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)