SC asks Centre, DGCA to reply in 2 weeks on plea for EMAS at tabletop runways

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New Delhi, Feb 16 (PTI) The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre and DGCA to reply within two weeks to a plea seeking installation of Engineered Materials Arrestor System (EMAS) at airports having tabletop runways to ensure safety of aircraft which overshoot runways or abort takeoffs.

A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian was informed that reply has not been filed by the respondents which include the Centre and Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The bench asked them to file their responses and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

A tabletop runway is the one atop a plateau or a hill, with one or both of its ends adjacent to a steep precipice. Pilots require very precise approach while landings and take-offs on such runways.

The petition, filed by a 85-year-old retired engineer Rajen Mehta, has mentioned accidents of August 7 last year at Calicut International Airport and May 22, 2010 at Mangalore -- both having table-top runways -- to press for EMAS installation.

EMAS is a bed of engineered materials built at the end of a runway to reduce severity of consequences to aircrafts overshooting runaways or aborting take offs.

This technology arrests such aircraft and prevents loss of life or damage and has already been deployed in over 125 runways across the world.

On September 16, last year, the top court had issued notice on the plea which sought installation of EMAS at airports like Manglore and Calicut.

'On May 22, 2010, a Boeing 737-800 passenger jet operating Air India Express Flight 812 from Dubai to Mangalore...crashed on landing at Mangalore Airport, resulting into the death of 158 persons,' the plea said.

It then referred to the tragic incident of August 7, last year, when an Air India Express Flight from Dubai to Kozhikode overshot at landing at Calicut International Airport and fell into a 30-35 feet gorge killing 16 passengers and both pilots.

Mehta said that keeping in mind the safety concerns, the authorities be directed to install EMAS at table-top runways in airports located in Mangalore, Karnataka and Calicut, Kerala.

The plea said there was a need for issuance of direction to the Respondents to examine which other runways and airports in the country require such EMAS and pass directions for installations of the same.

It sought an enquiry to ascertain as to why EMAS were not installed earlier despite specific knowledge and action against officials responsible for non-installation.

The petitioner said that he had trained with Swedish firm, leading manufacturers of Aircraft Arresting Systems for military purposes, in the world and wanted this system for smaller airports in the country.

The plea said that initially the Airport Authority of India was inclined to install EMAS in the airports in Calicut and in Mangalore and later it was not done.

'In 2008, due to the extreme economic crisis, the Calicut EMAS project was put in abeyance... Thereafter, the Respondent No. 1 (Centre) got involved and despite Mangalore crash in 2010, deliberately omitted to install EMAS at these airports,' the plea alleged.

The Court of Inquiry, appointed to investigate into the Mangalore crash in 2010, specifically recommended that systems like the EMAS should be installed on the runway overshoot areas, especially for table top airports like Mangalore.

Despite the same, no action has been taken by the Respondents till date, it said. In 1996, EMAS was first installed in John F Kennedy International Airport, New York, USA. PTI SJK MNL SA ANB ANB