Govt halts flights of small aircraft as cyclone draws closer

Published June 15, 2023
A plane flies past rain clouds, before the arrival of cyclonic storm Biparjoy over the Arabian Sea, in Karachi on June 14. — Reuters
A plane flies past rain clouds, before the arrival of cyclonic storm Biparjoy over the Arabian Sea, in Karachi on June 14. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: The government has halted small aircraft operations in areas vulnerable to Cyc­lone Biparjoy, as the weather might turn rough amid the storm’s expected landfall on Thursday (today).

It also considers suspending commercial flights as well, and the Pakistan International Airline will make a decision on Thursday afternoon after reviewing the weather.

The coastal regions of India and Pakistan have been on high alert, with tens of thousands of people being evacuated a day ahead of a cyclone’s expec­ted landfall on Thursday.

In a joint media briefing with Climate Minister Sherry Rehman in Islamabad, National Disas­ter Management Authority (NDMA) Chair­man Inam Haider Malik shared a recent update on the cyclone.

Possibility of suspending commercial flights at Karachi airport also under consideration

“After every two hours, cyclone-related information is shared with the institutions concerned. The movement of small aircraft is being stopped at Karachi airport. A decision will also be taken soon regarding commercial flights,” Mr Malik said.

Meanwhile, PIA spokesman Abdullah H. Khan said on Wednesday that flight operations were continuing properly, and the national airline would review the weather on Thursday afternoon before making a decision.

However, he said in a statement that PIA had completed its operational preparedness to avoid any untoward incident in view of Biparjoy’s expected landfall.

As precautionary measures against the impact of the cyclone hitting the coastal areas of Sindh, the PIA management had activated security and ramp safety teams operating in round-the-clock shifts to safeguard against any potential hazard to assets, equipment or life, he said.

PIA has also activated its 24-hour Emergency Response Centre to monitor and take immediate actions for flight operations if the weather gets rough. In case of bad weather at Karachi and Sukkur airports, Multan and Lahore would be used as alternative airfields.

The spokesman said flights between Karachi and Sukkur on Tuesday were cancelled due to strong winds, while a decision on the next flight would be taken according to the weather.

The national carrier’s Ramp Safety Task Force is already making rounds on the apron to secure any loose or mobile equipment away from the parked aircraft, parking bays and other operational areas.

Baggage containers, trolleys, dollies, engineering equipment and ramp vehicles are being moved to secure premises while the parked aircraft are also secured by applying parking chokes and other mechanisms.

The spokesman asked people travelling during the cyclone days to check their respective flight statuses from the PIA call centre before arriving at the airport.

Earlier on Sunday, the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) airside department alerted the relevant officials to ensure the safety of lightweight aircraft and other electrical equipment by taking precautionary measures such as mooring parked light aircraft or re-parking to a safer place.

Also, due to the risk of collision, goods near the runways and tarmac area in Karachi should be moved to a safer place, it advised.

The CAA’s safety guideline came in view of the Pakistan Meteorological Department’s forecast that the cyclone was heading towards Karachi.

It advised the staff to ensure that beacon lights over high-rise buildings, mobile towers, flood lights and advertisement boards should be properly intact to avoid any incident.

It also directed teams to be ready to determine the friction/braking action of the runway for safe aircraft operation during rain. Cleaning of all water drains should also be ensured, especially behind the international and domestic satellite area before monsoon, for smooth flow of rainwater, it said.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2023

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