AAI’s Bhubaneswar team restored airport operations within a day’s time after the rage of cyclone Fani with scrupulous planning and vigorous teamwork
It is rarely seen that nature’s fury arises and normalcy is restored within a matter of few hours. Fani, the tropical cyclone storm that struck the eastern Indian state of Odisha on May 3, 2019 caused widespread damage, rendered thousands homeless and devastated the state. Uprooting hundreds of thousands of trees, damaging buildings, roads and power lines, ‘Fani’ was categorised as a super-cyclone. With a top wind speed of 205 kmph, it landed at about 8:30 am and continued causing havoc in the coastal areas of the state until about 5:40 pm.
AAI’s Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA), Bhubaneswar, also suffered massive damage, but with advanced
intimation and meticulous planning, the situation was handled competently.
BPI Airport team made a well thought out contingency plan after receiving warnings related to Cyclone ‘Fani’ approaching the coastal areas of the state. Scheduled airlines, ground handling agencies and other stakeholders were advised to take care of their aircraft and other equipment. Airlines were intimated well in advance and were advised not to operate from May 2, 2019. This helped informing the passengers well in time and saved them from being inconvenienced and therefore averted probable casualties. To effectively handle the natural disaster, a round-the-clock Control Room was set up consisting officers from all significant departments. Safety of important navigational aids was ensured by moving them to safe places away from the wrath of the cyclonic winds. A plan was chalked out ensuring supply of enough handheld devices to monitor the air navigation services. A Mobile Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tower was brought in from Bokaro Airport and was kept on standby for air navigation purposes.
As Cyclone Fani’ hit the airport, all the aircraft operations were suspended for a day. Essential supplies and fuel was stocked and staff members managing essential services were asked to stay back at the airport.
After monitoring the situation throughout the preceding night, restoration work started as the wind speed reduced to 50 kmph in the evening on May 3, 2019.
Following actions were taken to expedite restoration and to ensure operationalisation of BPI Airport as early as possible:
• All the teams concerned assessed the damage caused and devised plan for restoration of flight operations
• Airport Director led a team of officials to the airside for analysing the safety requirements for restorations
• Air Traffic Services were restarted using hand-held devices, antennas and very high frequency devices were kept ready as backup
• Debris and all foreign objects were cleared from the operational area for speedy restoration of operations
• Vital CNS equipment that were moved away to safety were reinstated for quick restoration
“I compliment the Bhubaneswar Airport Team for having restored the airport back to normalcy in record time. Normal operations from the airport not just helped air traffic from the region but also played a significant role in relief operations. This is one of those achievements that make history and are remembered for a long time.” –Dr. Guruprasad Mohapatra, Chairman, AAI
The restoration continued throughout the night of May 3, 2019 and the airport was ready for operations by the next morning. It was scheduled to open at 1 pm. All concerned departments and respective in-charges showed exemplary commitment and indomitable will to bring the airport up on its feet.
The restoration of Bhubaneswar Airport helped air travellers flying to and out from Odisha and ensured timely supply of relief material by air as operations of all other modes of transportation were extensively hampered. It was because of the determination and teamwork of the entire squad present at the Bhubaneswar Airport along with the guidance of the senior management at the Corporate Headquarters (CHQ), that the facilities were restored within a span of a few hours. This made for a classic example of preemptive planning and meticulous execution of restoration and saw the airport pass through one of the worst cyclones that India has faced in the last four decades.