MUMBAI: Creating a new world record for single-runway operations, Mumbai airport handled 969 take-offs and landings in 24 hours on Friday. It broke its own record of 935, said a Mumbai International Airport Ltd spokesperson (MIAL).
Mega cities such as New York, London, Dubai and Delhi have airports with two or more runways that operate simultaneously. Though Mumbai has two runways, they criss-cross each other, so only one runway is used at a time. Technically this puts Mumbai in the single-runway airport category. So it’s in the league of busy single-runway secondary airports of cities like London (Gatwick, Stansted airports), Istanbul (Sabiha Gokcen airport) and major airports of smaller cities like San Diego (US), Fukuoka (Japan) and Xiamen (China).
Mumbai handles over 900 airline flights per day. The record high air traffic movement (take-offs and landings) happen on days when the number of unscheduled flights-charter aircraft, private aircraft-go up, like it did on Friday. These flights are banned during the morning and evening peak hours, so when the load goes up during non-peak hours, new records are set. “We hope to cross 1,000 aircraft movements per day soon,” the MIAL official said.
In civil aviation, the norm is to record time in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time, same as GMT) and Indian Standard Time is five-and-a-half hours ahead of UTC. The feat was achieved from 5.30am on Friday to 5.30am on Saturday.
Mumbai’s demand for air travel coupled with land-shortage (which means it will never have a parallel runways) has forced the private airport operator, the government-run air traffic control and airline pilots to eke out every second worth of efficiency from the 12,008 feet long main runway 27. The runway has a declared capacity to handle 46 take-offs and departure in an hour. Twice on Friday-once in the morning and once in the evening-the runway handled 50 movements in 60 minutes.
Kapil Kaul of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), a global aviation consultancy firm, says: “Gatwick is the only single-runway airport in the world that routinely handles more than 50 flight movements in a given hour. All others are 42 or less. Mumbai has the second highest as it crosses 50.”