To ensure aviation safety at table top airports in the country, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India’s statutory aviation regulator, is expected to evaluate them soon.
A tabletop airport is situated and constructed on top of a plateau or steep terrain, with one or both runway ends looking down over a drop.
Lengpui (Mizoram), Shimla and Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), Pakyong (Sikkim), Mangaluru (Karnataka), Kozhikode and Kannur (both Kerala) are the airports in the country that would be considered tabletop airports.
There is no reference to a “tabletop airport” in any International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) technical document, according to a retired aviation official. However, DGCA refers to these airports in this manner to emphasise safety procedures during operations at these runways.
The most crucial parts of any aircraft operation are the landing and takeoff phases. The pressure is significantly greater for the pilots, on runways with little room for manoeuvring like the tabletop runways.
“There has been a discussion around the review of tabletop airports or the airports with challenging terrain. These can be airports where the runway is elevated as compared to the surrounding geography. The motive is to increase prevention against any unforeseen incidents at such airports and check for areas where we can identify what more can be done to make landings and take-offs at such runways less challenging,” said a senior DGCA official, say reports.
A panel was initially established in 2020 to supervise the implementation of the recommendations of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau at Kozhikode airport following the crash of a Boeing 737-800 Air India Express aircraft on 7 August 2020, which claimed the lives of 21 passengers and crew members, including both pilots.
A high-level panel led by the secretary of civil aviation held the talks.