By Ana Maria Luca
Romania’s biggest international airport in Bucharest is to ban jumbo jets for at least two months and repair both its runways, after an incident at the end of March revealed that its infrastructure may pose a risk to passenger and aircraft security.
Romania’s Civil Aviation Authority has offcially notofied the airport that jumbo jets should be restricted from landing on Henry Coanda Airport until June 1, 2018, after an NGO revealed that an Israeli El Al jumbo jet dislocated parts of the only operational runway while taking off on March 30.
At the end of November, Romania’s Airport Administration announced that the same runway had been rehabilitated and was fully operational. Repairs had started in July 2017, after heavy rain flooded it, causing delays.
On April 2, Pro-Infrastructura, an NGO that monitors infrastructure and construction in Romania, revealed the incident on social media, calling for the government to intervene and repair the infrastructure.
The NGO said it had signalled many times that the state of the two runways on the Henry Coanda Airport posed risks to passenger safety.
“The runway … which has been patched up numerous times with thin layers of asphalt is truly a safety risk,” the NGO said. It also said that the incident on March 30 was not the first, and that the authorities had been ignoring warnings and complaints from airlines.
The organization noted that the second runway, which is only operational for two-thirds of its length, was also closed at the time of the incident.
The airport was closed to air traffic for an hour after the incident on March 30, and several flights had to circle around and wait for the quick repairs so they could land.
“We reached a point when pilots, air traffic controllers and even airline managers are warning that the state of the airport infrastructure has become unacceptable, and the risks are very high,” the organization added.
The manager of Romania’s airline Tarom, Werner Wolff, told the media at the end of March that planes need to change tires three to five times a week because of the poor runway maintenance at Bucharest’s international airport.
“Otopeni needs massive investment in its runways and I believe we need also to change the way we receive passengers,” he said. “What is in our way, however, are the potholes in the runways that simply cut through the wheels; it’s unbelievable how many times we have to change them. The costs are massive,” Wolff added.
After an inspection following the March 30 incident, Romania’s Civil Aviation notified the airport that it had to restrict traffic for jumbo jets while both runways undergo repairs. The temporary ban includes all aircraft bigger than Boeing 757s and Airbus A 300s.
The Ministry of Transport also announced that both runaways will be repaired and works are set to begin on April 12.
Only Turkish Airlines and Israel’s El Al operate flights with jumbo jets on Henry Coanda Airport.
The Ministry of Transport last year said it planned to build a new terminal for Henry Coada International Airport, including new platforms, driveways, road connections, parking and a new tower.