LEH: The Leh Airport was closed for operations on Tuesday after the runway was blocked by the Indian Air Force’s heavy-lifter C-17 Globemaster which was facing technical issues, officials familiar with the matter said.
The non-operational runway led to flight diversions and cancellations. Domestic airlines such as IndiGo, Air India, SpiceJet and Vistara operate 11 flights to Leh every day.
The US-origin aircraft – the IAF operates a fleet of 11 C-17 heavy lifters – was on a routine air maintenance sortie when it landed at Leh on Tuesday morning. The technical issue with the C-17 heavy-lifter is not a serious one and is being fixed, officials aware of the matter, who asked not to be named, said. “The issue is being fixed and the runway should be operational by tomorrow,” said one of the officials.
In a post on Twitter, Vistara said its flight UK601 from Delhi to Leh (DEL-IXL) was returning to Delhi airport due to runway restrictions at Leh and is expected to arrive in Delhi at 10am.
Air India, which operates two daily flights to Leh, diverted one of them to Srinagar and cancelled the second flight after a notice to airmen (NOTAM) was issued due to the breakdown of the Globemaster.
While SpiceJet cancelled two of its three daily flights to/from Leh, IndiGo which operates five daily flights had to cancel all its flights to the airport.
Flightradar24, a Swedish internet-based service that shows real-time aircraft flight tracking information, also said all flight arrivals into the airport have been cancelled.
“All flights have been cancelled for today and airlines will be informed if the runway could be operational as per schedule tomorrow,” an airport official said.
The C-17s, along with IL-76s, C-130Js and AN-32s, play a critical role in supporting the army’s forward deployments in the Ladakh sector.
The C-17s played a crucial role in transporting soldiers and military equipment to eastern Ladakh when the border row with China was at its peak in 2020.
In early May, a C-17 carried out an impressive rescue of 192 people from war-torn Sudan, with the full mission lasting almost 24 hours with a refuelling stop at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. The aircraft took off from Hindan on May 3-4 midnight, landed and refuelled in Jeddah on May 4 morning, then flew to Port Sudan from where it airlifted the passengers – mostly children, women and the elderly – to Ahmedabad before flying back to the Hindan air base on May 4 night. (Agencies)
- February 25, 2024