In a monumental stride towards enhancing passenger safety and operational resilience, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) has commissioned Asia’s first ‘Disabled Aircraft Recovery Kit’ (DARK) to help stranded aircraft, officials said here on Monday.
The DARK facility comprises 'high pressure lifting bags' of superior durability but requiring minimal manpower and providing a more efficient aircraft recovery process compared with the conventional low-pressure counterparts.
With a maximum weight of 390 tonnes, DARK can quickly recover large commercial and transport aircraft including the world’s biggest aircraft, the Boeing 777-300ER, and others that may be involved in runway excursions or other incidents.
Runway excursion is a scenario when the aircraft veers off or overruns the runway during take-off or landings, a major concern in aviation, and requires swift but meticulous intervention to ensure safety of passengers, the aircraft and the airport operations, said the officials.
The recovery process encompasses a meticulous sequence of steps, from ground preparations to aircraft lifting, de-bogging and towing, and the DARK’s compact design enhances its transportability, allowing rescuers to reach crash sites faster, so that disruptions in operations are minimised, especially as CSMIA has a single cross-over runway operation.
The sophisticated kit can be operated with comparatively fewer trained personnel, the bags occupy a smaller footprint, and recovery operation four times faster than the low pressure bag system, the officials explained.
The CSMIA’s own Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting team underwent an intensive five-day training program to operate DARK, the legal aspects, tethering, ground stabilisation, lifting techniques using the low-pressure bags, multi-sling utilisation and de-bogging procedures, etc.
For the theoretical and practical training, the entire DARK was spread across a gigantic hangar at the CSMIA and the different units disassembled, comprising 46 containers, a compressor to power the systems to inflate the bags, tethers to stability the six-metre tall inflated bags, a trailer and wing transition, said the officials.