Chitral airport faces flight safety concerns

KARACHI, Dec 5:  The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), responsible for maintaining safety standards at the country’s numerous airports, is desperately trying to contain illegal construction in close proximity to the runway of Chitral Airport. “We have been trying for months to stop illegal construction activities around the Chitral Airport runway. Now we will take the help of the police against the people who are breaking the law,” CAA spokesperson Pervez George said, adding that the authority could not ignore anything that puts passengers’ life at risk. The activities continue to challenge the government’s writ and the CAA says it is facing serious difficulties in fighting the case in courts. Despite sending notices to the responsible individuals involved in the “mushroom” construction around the airport, things are not moving in the right direction, according to CAA officials. The legal department of the CAA insists that the builders are being encouraged by certain powerful government officials, hampering CAA efforts to take any police action. Furthermore, the deteriorating law and order situation is also encouraging other constructers in the vicinity to continue with their projects in complete disregard of aviation laws. An official of the CAA’s legal department says that the construction activities are against CAA and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules, adding that the construction is also in violation of the National Airfield Clearance Policy and a threat to incoming and outgoing flights. Background Interestingly, a few years ago, the CAA granted a non-objection certificate (NOC) for the construction of a few government buildings, including a police rest house near the runway, according to industry officials. They added that Pakistan International Airline captains expressed concern over the construction activities near the runway and even lodged complaints to the CAA. A large number of buildings, comprising private houses and the airport’s own offices, are located within the radius of the limits prescribed by CAA rules. Presently, the closest building to the runway is a government vocational institute. The police have also constructed a rest house near the runway. An insider in the police department of Chitral said that the CAA had already issued an NOC to the police. All other buildings near the runway are either private houses constructed a few years ago or are under-construction structures up to the roof level. Construction work on some properties had halted following CAA notices to their owners in 1998. Later, the illegal builders sued the CAA in the court since they had issued NOCs to the builders themselves. CAA has now issued notices reportedly on the complaints of PIA pilots, saying the latest construction activities around the runway are safety hazards and should be halted at once. Be that as it may, instead of halting construction, the district coordination officer approached a civil court in Chitral, which issued a stay order in his favour, on the pretext that a house being constructed near the airport is situated next to numerous others government buildings and houses, without any complaints by CAA.–Express Tribune]]>

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