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Chitrakoot airport gets ready, flights to take off from tabletop

The tabletop runway will serve as a gateway to the mythological tourist destinations of Chitrakoot in the Vindhya Hills where Lord Ram spent much of his 'vanvas'.

CHITRAKOOT (UP), Aug 19: The Chitrakoot airport, built at a cost of Rs 146 crore on a plateau on the Vindhya hills, will have the first tabletop runway in Uttar Pradesh. It will also be the first operational airport in the Bundelkhand region of the State and will be managed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

The airport, now all set for launch, is awaiting the licence from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). First, a 20-seater aircraft will start flying under the UDAN scheme.

Apart from the airport, the new Bundelkhand Expressway also opens the way for tourists to visit Chitrakoot. Lord Ram is believed to have spent most of his exile here. The ropeway, the waterfall and the mythological sites here also offer an attraction.

The airports at Kozhikode (Kerala), Mangaluru (Karnataka), Lengpui (Mizoram), Pakyong (Sikkim) and Shimla and Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) have tabletop runways.

Tabletop runways are constructed in mountainous terrains where plains are not available or on plateaux. There may be valleys or deep precipices at the front and back of the runway or on the sides, demanding high precision landing by very experienced pilots. Even a minute error leaves no chance. Among the types of aircraft, the wide-bodied look for larger leeway and longer strip to calm down its sweep. Indian commercial liners mostly have twin-aisle aircraft even for domestic flights and they constitute mainly Boeing and Airbus, where Boeing has more wide-bodied versions than Airbus. Therefore, the aircraft also counts, not the pilot alone.

Kozhikode tabletop mishap: Pilot error

An air mishap occurred at Kozhikode tabletop runway two years ago killing 18 people when the aircraft touched down too far down into the runway and naturally overshot the tabletop to drop into a gorge in poor visibility due to heavy rain. The Pilot Flying was one of the best in service but the plane won't lift at that point. He too died. The Air India Express B737-800 was arriving from Dubai with 190 on board. It fell 35 feet down the slope and broke into two, on August 7, 2020. The Kozhikode airport in Kerala is operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Earlier, another tabletop accident occurred at Mangaluru in 2010.

At Kozhikode, even after a second failed attempt to land, the highly experienced but "overconfident" Pilot Flying (PF) continued an unstabilised approach and in poor visibility "landed beyond the touchdown zone, half way down the runway, in spite of ‘Go Around’ call by PM (Pilot Monitoring)," according to the investigation report. A dead windshield wiper, the system failure as per the transcripts, contributed no less, like the heavy rains, leading up to the tragedy.

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