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CAA admits to design flaw in Islamabad airport runways

CAA admits to design flaw in Islamabad airport runways

ISLAMABAD: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has admitted a major design flaw in the runways of the New Islamabad International Airport due to which two aircraft cannot land or take off simultaneously.

During a briefing to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the new airport, the CAA director general, retired Air Marshal Asim Suleman, admitted that the design error was overlooked at the initial stages.

PAC member Shafqat Mehmood said it was a “criminal error.” Chairman Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah observed: “Due to this fault, the CAA would not be able to handle traffic increase at the airport.”

According to CAA’s estimates, the new airport in Islamabad is designed to handle nine million passengers per annum compared to 4.5 million passengers at Benazir Bhutto International Airport while Karachi airport hosts just below six million passengers every year.

The CAA also told the PAC that the new airport would be completed by December 25 this year.

Mr Suleman said a US-based design firm was awarded the contract to design the airport runways. He said the firm suggested two parallel runways with a distance of 200 metres between them. After the runways were completed, technical experts pointed out that upcoming aircraft would not be able to take off, and two aircraft would not be able to land concurrently.

He said: “For the concurrent landing or taking off of aeroplanes, the minimum distance between two parallel runway strips should be one kilometre.”

He said the design fault should have been corrected in the initial stages, but was overlooked, and contractors ended up building the runways 200 metres away from each other.

Mr Suleman told the committee that the runways would be able to handle consecutive takeoffs or landings with a slight delay.

The new airport is located on 3,200 acres of land in Pind Ranjha, near Fatehjang, about 25 kilometres from Zero Point, Islamabad.

The CAA also told the committee that it was establishing two dams to meet the airport’s water needs. The dams – Ramma and Kassana – will supply the airport with about 3.3 million gallons of water every day.

Mr Suleman said rainwater would be the main source for the damns’ reservoirs. After the water level reaches its maximum level, it would be enough for two consecutive years.

Regarding the road infrastructure, PAC member Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said private housing societies and the real estate ‘mafia’ had manipulated the design of the road meant for the airport.

Rather than constructing a straight road to the airport, he said the concerned authorities had planned a “zigzagging” road in order to give access to private housing schemes near the airport.

A CAA official told the committee that a straight road had been planned from Golra Mor at Kashmir Highway. He said the army’s Central Mechanical Transport and Storage Depot opposed the construction of the road after which it was redesigned. The road now begins at Golra Mor on Kashmir Highway, to the entrance to the motorway, and then takes a turn from the Peshawar interchange to reach the main gate of the airport.

Mr Shah then asked the CAA director general to brief the committee on the Lahore airport extension project in the next meeting. He said there had been allegations that the project was being awarded to Turkey and Qatar-based firms.

In response, Mr Suleman said bids were invited from 30 firms, and 30 companies submitted their offers. He said the authority would award the contract to the successful bidder in a transparent manner.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2016

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