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‘Night eye’ lined up for Bagdogra

Bagdogra, April 30: Take-offs and landings at night and along with it international flights can commence at Bagdogra airport by Pujas this year, a survey by an Airports Authority of India (AAI) team has indicated.

At the conclusion of its two-day visit yesterday, the three-member team of the AAI site selection committee from Delhi felt that the installation of Instrument Landing System (ILS) and approach lights “are feasible at Bagdogra airport”. For international airlines to operate from an airport, the availability of Category 1 ILS facilities is a must.

The ILS is a visual aid that helps pilots land and is particularly useful at night and in foggy conditions. “Without such aids, a pilot requires clear visibility of at least 2,400m. But if ILS is installed, this distance comes down to 800m,” said Bagdogra airport director K.K. Bhowmik.

The team comprising three deputy general managers —Ajay Kapur (communications, navigation and surveillance), V.K. Mishra (air traffic management) and S.K. Deshwal (aerodrome planning) — inspected the airport area on Monday and Tuesday. They also guided local engineers on how to conduct an area and contour survey of the airfield, which takes into account all structures/obstacles above ground level.

The team’s visit follows a meeting held in Delhi last month on the upgrade of the Bagdogra airport that was attended by the secretaries of the ministries of civil aviation and defence, among others. Installation of Cat 1 ILS, approach lights and, if necessary, acquisition of land for ILS installation were discussed.

“It was suggested that the AAI, which would procure and install the ILS, should carry out a feasibility study within a month and submit a report to the ministries. The local Indian Air Force authorities will extend full cooperation in this regard,” said Bhowmik.

Bagdogra is an air force base that doubles as a civilian airport.

The team’s initial view was that the system could be set up without many adjustments to the airfield. “But it all depends on the survey (which was completed today),” Kapur said yesterday. “The survey is needed because Bagdogra, unlike other civil airports, does not have a grid map because it is under defence control.”

Kapur said the survey would reveal whether any obstruction existed in the “critical area” of the ILS, which solely depends on transmission of beams, both lateral and vertical, from the ground to the pilot. “Bunkers, trees, boundary walls, buildings …all these could be in the path of the beams.”

The team will analyse the survey report and if it finds any such obstruction, it will inform air force authorities here about required adjustments (shifting/demolition).

Civil aviation minister Praful Patel, who had come here in October last year, had promised international flights from Bagdogra by 2008. “Once night landing facilities are installed, a lot of options would be available,” said Bhowmik. “International flights to Southeast Asia, even Kathmandu, could operate at night, while domestic operations continue during the day.”

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