Frequent flight cancellations troubling Mizoram air travellers

Air travellers in Mizoram have been suffering harassment for a long time because of frequent cancellation and diversion of flights.

Aizawl: Air travellers in Mizoram have been suffering harassment for a long time because of frequent cancellation and diversion of flights, not to speak of delays, from Kolkata and Guwahati to the state`s lone Lengpui airport.

Only in the first week of last month hundreds of passengers, including students, officials and sick people, were stranded for almost a week in Aizawl, Kolkata and Guwahati because of cancellation of flights.

As the air link is the only option available to travellers to visit other parts of the country apart from the National Highway 54, which is often rendered useless either in Assam or Meghalaya due to landslides, flight cancellations mean Mizoram gets cut off from the rest of the country.

There is a railhead at Bairabi which has links with Lalabazar in Assam, but it is a meter-gauged train and is never used by travellers bound for other parts of the country.

The flight disruptions are mostly because of the delay in the commissioning of the Instrumental Landing System (ILS) by the Airport Authority of India in the table-top airport.

Only two airlines Air India and the Kingfisher – are available from Kolkata and Guwahati and while one Airbus flight between Kolkata and Lengpui is available every day, the rest are the 46-seater ATR-42 flights.

UK Ghosh, Senior Manager of the Airport Authority of India at Lengpui Airport, said that the Very High Frequency Omni-directional Range (VOR) at Lengpui airport was out of order due to water leaks in the building which houses the instrument.

Lalhming Liana, the lone Rajya Sabha member from the state and a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation, failed to visit his constituency two times during June alone and had to fly back to New Delhi once due to flight cancellation.

"I often fail to attend meetings in Delhi and other cities due to flight cancellations, Lalhming Liana laments.

Wing Commander (retired) Joe Lalhmingliana, former Controller of the state Civil Aviation Wing, attributes the disruptions to the `apathy` of the Centre.

He said the Centre had initially even refused to construct an airport in the state on the ground that it would not be economically feasible.

Only in the 1990s was it decided to construct an airport in the state and in December, 1998 the then deputy Prime Minister LK Advani had inaugurated the facility.

Lalhmingliana said though the ILS was installed in the airport after much pursuation with the DGCA, it was still to be commissioned.

``If the ILS is commissioned, there will be no cancellations as the instrument ensures landing even when the visibility is 1,500 metres and the visibility at the airport never goes down below 2,500 metres,`` he points out.

As of now, with the help of VOR, the Airbus can land at 5,000 metres and smaller aircraft like ATR-42 at 3,500 metres causing serious snags.

A senior Air India official in Kolkata who recently visited Aizawl said that the ILS at the Lengpui Airport would be functional as soon as the DGCA gives the go-ahead for