A Rs-200cr grant for equipment upgrade promises to make the city airport the safest in the country.
The civil aviation ministry sanctioned the amount keeping in view the growing importance of the airport. The Air Traffic Control (ATC) in Calcutta is now the busiest in India at night.
The regional chapter of the Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild (India) had written several times to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in 2006 stressing the need for the latest surveillance equipment. The upgrade of the ATC was not originally a part of the Rs-1542cr airport modernisation plan.
“The ATC will be modernised before the terminal is upgraded because installation of equipment does not take as long as erecting and modifying buildings,” said a senior official at the airport.
State-of-the-art LCD monitors will replace the seven radar monitor sets at the airport, said an AAI official. The monitors are in use for almost 10 years.
The aircraft position is displayed on the screens. The secondary radar allows the controller to monitor altitude and speed to guide the aircraft and prevent mid-air collision.
“More aircraft overfly the city ATC at night than any other ATC in the country. An advanced display terminal will help the air traffic controllers keep the airspace safe,” said the airport official. About 1,000 planes overfly the ATC daily.
The Calcutta ATC controls flight movement in three zones — till Myanmar in the east, Vishakhapatnam in the south and Raipur in the west. There is no back-up radar for these zones. “There is also no back-up for the approach radar,” said the official.
The approach radar controls the landing and take-off of aircraft. During peak hours, an ATC officer has to handle take-off and landing of 12 flights. “If the radar fails, then the safety of aircraft is jeopardised. Changing to a non-radar surveillance system is very difficult,” he said.
Back-up radars will be provided under the upgrade scheme, said airport sources.
Surface movement radar, which reduces flight delay because of fog, will also be acquired under the scheme. Delhi airport has facility.
At the city airport, the aircraft are currently guided from the parking bay to the runway by special jeeps during fog. The process is time-consuming. “Once the surface movement radar is installed, the ground movement of the flights will be smoother and faster,” said an official.
The airport will also get a software to automatically feed aircraft code and call sign information into the radar system. Major airports in the country have the software.