The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Facility dearth in flight spurt
- Sky traffic to rise 30 per cent in 2 years

A flight to or from the airport could land straight into chaos or take off in disaster a few years hence, if the infrastructure is not revamped.

This is the unanimous opinion of airlines, air traffic controllers, administrators and the rest of the travel fraternity. They fear that with the present pace of growth ' from 117 landings daily a year ago to 130 now, and a projected 30 per cent jump in the next two years ' things are bound to veer out of control if infrastructure remains neglected.

To begin with, aircraft cannot land in adverse weather conditions on the right runway (01 right, in technical parlance).

For, the Category II lighting facility, which enables pilots to land even when visibility is just 350 metres, has been installed only on the left runway (19 left). To make things worse, some of the lights on 01 right are not working.

In contrast, Delhi airport has installed Category III lights, which can ensure safe landing even in zero visibility.

Among the other causes for worry is the glass encasement of the control tower, which has aged and does not allow a clear view of the entire runway. 'We have asked the authorities to replace the glass immediately. During rush hour, things become difficult for us to handle,' a controller said.

Though the airport is being touted as the gateway to southeast Asia, its international terminal has only one aerobridge, against three in the domestic apron area. 'With the passenger traffic increasing, the authorities will find it difficult to handle the volume in the near future if more aerobridges are not set up,' said Bharat Mahadevan, manager (east), Singapore Airlines.

That is not all. The Calcutta Flight Information Region handles about 500 flights a day, with most overflying the city. But of the 91 air traffic controllers, only 20 per cent are equipped to monitor radar signals.

The rest are at work in the other three sectors ' area control, approach control and automatic dependence surveillance control.

'Following the rise in the number of flights, at least 40 per cent of the controllers should be deployed on radar duty,' a controller added.

The Airlines Operator Committee (AOC) has taken up the issue of revamping the infrastructure with the Airports Authority of India (AAI). 'We are constantly in touch with AAI and have asked them to immediately address the issue,' said an AOC spokesperson.

Deputy general manager of the airport (aviation safety) R.S. Lauharia said: 'Despite our constraints, we are trying to improve both ground and air safety.' Airport director V.K. Monga is working on plans to revamp the facilities.

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