Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Delhi's Airport: What a zoo!

How many times have you heard someone say, "It's a zoo!" to describe a busy airport scene? At New Delhi's Indira Ghandi International Airport (DEL) this week, that expression is close to being the literal truth.

Indira Ghandi International AirportIt's the monsoon season in India, so it has been raining heavily lately. Problems such as torrential downpours and ponding on runways are frequent during this season, but according to a story in the Hindustan Times, there is an additional factor hindering traffic at the airport in New Delhi: animals on the runway. Lots of animals. Lots of kinds of animals.

Some 100 flights were delayed this past Monday when monitor lizards, jackals, and birds took over a runway, presumably seeking to a place to dry out and warm up after being drenched by the rains. In addition to these sunbathing critters, ponded water near the runways and taxiways attracts (are you ready for this?) ducks!

Animal welfare groups had to be called in to rescue the big monitor lizards and chase away the jackals and birds. The Hindustan Times article notes, "This is not the first time IGI airport authorities sought help from voluntary organisations to clear animals from the airport premises as monkeys, jackals and peacocks sometimes disrupt flights during the monsoons."

All of this animal control activity takes time. Meanwhile, many flights are canceled or delayed. The Hindustan Times adds:
But then flight delays are probably the good news. For a menagerie on the runway is one of the worst nightmares of pilots and ATCs. For instance, on its landing roll, it’s nearly impossible for a 747 to avoid an animal on the runway — a risk that is multiplied manifold if an engine sucks in a bird while taking off.

It is no use depending on surface-movement radar to detect small objects like cattle or birds on the runway. Airport authorities should work out plans to avoid animals incursions on runways. Tried-and-tested methods like deploying noisemakers or fireworks, along with fencing and animal population management will help them maintain clear safety zones at the airport.
Remember this if you are scheduled for a trip to DEL in the near future. It's a zoo. A real zoo.

[Photo Source]