The Telegraph
Wednesday , September 22 , 2010
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Safety salve in deadline miss
- Shelved ATC revamp makes modernisation plan comeback

A safety project that was grounded midway is set to take wing again at Calcutta airport, compensating for a delayed flight to modernisation.

The announcement came even as a reality check by the Airports Authority of India confirmed what Metro had reported on August 9 — that the modernisation project would miss its August 2011 deadline.

The chairman of the Airports Authority of India, V.P. Agrawal, fixed October 2011 as the new deadline for the modernisation project. “We have reviewed the progress and the project will be completed by October 2011,” he said on Tuesday.

There was some good news too. “We are planning to spend Rs 250 crore in excess of the modernisation budget to upgrade the ATC (air traffic control) and build a new tower in around one-and-a-half-year’s time,” Agrawal said.

Of the estimated additional cost of Rs 250 crore, around Rs 100 crore is to be spent on equipment meant to increase flight safety in an airport with a history of close calls.

“The ATC needs a thorough revamp as the radar is outmoded and the high-frequency communication devices often malfunction,” said Kailash Pati Mandal, the secretary (east) of the Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild.

Although the city airport may not be among the busiest in the country, the skies above Calcutta are “very busy” by aviation standards. Around 750 flights fly over the city every day.

The new tower and the ATC upgrade were part of the original airport modernisation plan amended midway. “We had started scouting for a suitable site when this plan was shelved,” an official said.

Airport officials used to the slow-mo ways of the bureaucracy said October was an unrealistic target for the completion of modernisation. The old structure at the site of the proposed annexe to house the offices of airlines and the CISF is yet to be handed over for demolition.

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