19th April 2011, www.lankabusinessonline.com
Sri Lanka's international airport is to acquire 100 hectares of land to build a parallel runway required to handle growing aircraft traffic that could soon saturate existing capacity, an official said.
A post-war economic and tourism boom has led to an increase in the number of airlines flying to the island as well as in the frequency of flights.
Johanne Jayaratne, executive director of Airports and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka), a state agency which operates airports, said increasing traffic made the need for a parallel runway at the island's sole international airport at Katunayake more urgent.
He said 32 airlines now use the airport, just north of Colombo, with Aeroflot expected to resume flights soon.
The airport now handles 3,354 monthly scheduled flights, excluding charter flights, he told a recent forum.
The single runway has a capacity of 42,000 aircraft movements a year.
"We're now doing over 30,000 and will be close to maximum capacity," Jayaratne said.
That made it important to go ahead with building a proposed parallel runway at the airport but it was difficult to expand in the densely populated and industrialised area.
"We now handle 12 aircraft movements an hour during peak times. Our capacity is 25. It will catch up on us pretty fast. So we're actively pursuing the acquisition of land to ensure we can have a parallel runway."
An air force base and an export processing zone to the north and south of the airport were constraints, Jayaratne said.
"Acquiring land is going to pose its own challenges but the importance of acquiring land is pretty obvious to everybody."
A parallel runway close to the present one was not desirable owing to safety concerns, making it necessary to acquire about 100 hectares of land.
H M C Nimalsiri, director general of civil aviation authority, told the forum that a parallel runway at Katunayake would help airlines reduce costs.
"If we can provide a parallel runway with the necessary separation they can come with less fuel and more payload."
Aircraft now fly to Sri Lanka with extra fuel in case they have to divert to airports in India or the Maldives if the Katunayake runway is closed in an emergency.
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