SRINAGAR: The Indian Air Force (IAF) suddenly decided to close the Jammu runway for heavy planes like Boeing 737 and Airbus A-320. No private airline took off or landed in Jammu on Friday.
Pertinent to mention here is that this happened a day after the festival of Navratre ended and scores of Mata Vaishno Devi devotees were to fly in and out of Jammu. Consequently, thousands of passengers supposed to fly to and from Jammu on Friday were stranded in the temple town and airports across the country.
There was secrecy surrounding the IAF closure of the airport: The civilian air traffic control and the airlines were not in the loop regarding the runway closure.
According to a source, “Neither the civilian air traffic control, nor private airlines were aware of the runway closure. A private airline’s aircraft even took off from Delhi on Friday for Jammu and had to be diverted to Srinagar. Passengers reached airports across India to fly to Jammu but flights did not take off. There was utter chaos.
Jammu handles 16 domestic arrivals and departures daily. On Friday, only three Air India flights operated there. No private airliner was allowed to operate to and from Jammu on Friday.
This is the first that an alert was sounded and the runway almost closed.
The IAF, which controls Air Traffic Control(ATC) at some defense airports like Jammu, issued the notice to airmen (Notam) advising airlines not to fly big planes to Jammu reportedly after examining the runway and finding it weak.
“Jammu and Patna are among the most unsafe runways in India. The DGCA has in the past warned against operating big planes full to these places but has not able to implement it due to the political pressure from governments of the day. Also, Jammu is a sensitive airport that needs to remain operational due to security reasons given its proximity to Pakistan,” said a source.
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