By: ML Verma
Shimla. Air safety at Shimla airport, situated at Jubberhati at an altitude of 2,196 meters above the sea level, is a challenging task, considering that it is among the three table-top airports in the country. While talking to HimVani over phone, Director Tourism and Special Secretary (Monitoring and Coordination), Arun Kumar Sharma, himself admitted that in view of the air-crash at Manglore, negligible road connectivity in the the periphery of the 3,800-feet-long airstrip due to hilly terrain is a matter of concern.
Responding to a query raised by HimVni, Sharma said that in case of any eventuality the task would be uphill for the authorities to carry out a search and rescue operation. Pushing the ball in the court of Airport Authority of India (AAI), Sharma stated that the matter is serious and airport authority is expected to act appropriately. He said that so far their is has been no written request on behalf of AAI, which is looking after the flight operation at Jubberhati Airport, “but if they would pursue the matter with us with regards to extension of connectivity the state government and the department would positively act on their request.”
When contacted at Jubberhati airport, an official of AAI told HimVani, on the condition of anonymity, that they have arrangements of fire fighting at the strip level but the left bank of the airport is unconnected so far. It is learnt that the Directorate General (DG) of Civil Aviation has sought information regarding the guidelines for rescue operation in case of any eventuality. The official averred that they would write to state government to provide road connectivity to the left side of the airstrip so that rescue vehicles and fire tenders could approach the site without much delay. He said that night landing facility at the airport was commissioned on October 31 last year but no night test flight has been operated so far.
Shimla airport is connected to Delhi and Kullu by regular flights. Currently one private airlines, namely Kingfishers, is operating its maiden flight besides charter flights. Indian Air Force aircrafts and helicopters and state government chopper also use this runway during VVIP visits. The airport occupies an area of about 140.87 acres of land at an elevation of 5065 ft. The terminal capacity of the airport is only 25. The airstrip is distinctly visible across the Shimla valley from the Chandigarh-Shimla highway. Only small size aircrafts like 18-seater Dornier can operate from this airport. Large aircrafts such as 60-seater ATR-72 or IAF’s AN-32 aircraft cannot operate from here as it requires a much longer runway.
Edited by Johar Singh