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Mangalore airport to get new ATC tower, safer runway

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A year after the crash at the which killed 158 people, the airport is set to get a new air traffic control (ATC) tower and a safer runway.

The court of inquiry by air marshal (retd) B N Gokhale, which probed the May 22 crash, has recommended the construction of a new for a better view of the airport. Other upgrades include improved runway markings and elevation of the runway-end safety area.

The current ATC tower at the Mangalore Airport is situated at one end of the 2,450-metre long runway. Since the height of the tower is low, it does not offer controllers a good view of the airport. The court of inquiry said on May 22, 2010, the on-duty air traffic controller was unable to see the Boeing 737 at the end of the runway, and according to standard practice, had radioed the plane to backtrack on the runway.

"The location of the tower and its height make the controller's job difficult. Mangalore has a table-top runway, with a slight downward slope towards its end. One end of the runway strip is not clearly visible with the naked eye,” said an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official.

The has now drawn up plans for to construct an ATC tower and a radar control room at a distance of 2,000 feet from the point where runway 24/06 begins.

"We have floated tenders for the ATC tower. It would cost about Rs 26.5 crore, and would be completed in eighteen months after the bid is finalised,'' said Mangalore airport Director, M R Vasudeva. He claimed there were no concerns regarding the view of the runway from the current tower.

However, the construction of an approach radar, which can track planes within 50 miles, would take more time. The airport currently has only a route surveillance radar, which tracks planes beyond 50 miles.

The AAI has also provided 'distance to go markers' on the airport's runway. These help a pilot to know the exact length of the available runway on touchdown. The end of the runway is also being elevated. The court of inquiry warned that a runway with a downward slope at its end was dangerous, especially at airports which with a tabletop runway.

The investigation into the crash revealed that the captain's failure to discontinue unstabilised approach and his decision to go ahead with the landing despite the co-pilot's call for a go-around, led to the crash. To prevent such accidents in the future, the Director General of Civil Aviation has issued instructions which allow a co-pilot to initiate a go-around if the captain does not respond to his call.

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