Concerns over lack of approach to surrounding hills at Shimla airport

Shimla: Following the tragic Air India flight crash at Mangalore airport doubts about the safety concerns at the Shimla airport have come to the fore front. The airport, situated at Jubberhati, 23 km from Shimla at an height of 2,196 m above the sea level has been facing a challenge of air safety due to its hilly terrain on the both sides of 3,800 feet long airstrip.

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Considering the air-crash at Manglore, safety and rescue viability at Shimla Airport is also a matter of concern as there is no proper connectivity to its surroundings due to the hilly terrain. In case of any eventuality, the rescue would be an uphill task and there was a need to do a serious pre-assessment of the risk by Airport officials.

Sources say, the airport have made arrangements of fire fighting at the strip level but the surroundings mainly the left side remained unconnected so far. Directorate General  of Civil Aviation has already sought information on the guidelines for rescue operation in case of any eventuality. The airport night landing facility had got commissioned in October 2009 but no night test flight was operated on this airport.

Director of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Himachal Pradesh, Dr. Arun Sharma was quoted in the media saying, “There is no written request on behalf of the National Airport Authority (AAI) looking after the operation of flight at Jubberhati Airport but if they would pursue us about extending connectivity, the state government and department would positively act on their request.”

The state government needs to take a pro-active role here and instead of waiting for AAI officials to write to them should take up the matter itself and ensure that proper mechanism is in place in case of any accident.

The airport is currently used by Kingfisher airlines which operates a daily flight from Delhi. Besides chartered planes, Air Force aircrafts and choppers and state government helicopter use this airport.

Only smaller aircrafts can operate from this airport. Large aircraft such as ATR, Airbus etc cannot operate from Shimla Airport as these required much longer runways.

(Pic : Shimla Express)

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