Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New airport with old problems

New airport with old problems
Monday January 28 2008 10:18 IST

Ramu Patil

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BANGALORE: The new Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), set to take-off on March 30, will carry the problems that plague the present HAL airport when operations shift to Devanahalli.

Frequent flyers have to manage with the maddening traffic on Bellary Road and be prepared for last minute cancellations and delays due to bad weather, as the airport is not equipped with the latest instruments.

Like many old airports, the international airport at Devanahalli will have CAT-I Instrument Landing System (ILS).

The system requires minimum Runway Visibility Range (RVR) of 1200 metres, which is of little help to land an aircraft in bad weather, especially during fog when RVR will be much less.

The HAL airport has the same CAT-I, system and every winter it faces major problems of maintaining flight schedules during fog.

The BIAL maintains that the selection of visual aids to be provided at the airport depend primarily on the visibility conditions under which it intends to conduct operations and on the type of aircraft.

"The new airport is equipped with precision approach category system 1 known as CAT I which is in accordance with requirement for Bangalore," said a BIAL official.

Aviation experts, however, differ with the BIAL logic of going for the old system.

"Bangalore weather has changed drastically and air traffic is increasing. We need CAT II ILS to ensure hasslefree flying throughout the year," he said. Mumbai has CAT II and New Delhi airport is equipped with CAT III ILS.

The air traffic at HAL airport is very heavy. It handles a take-off or landing every two minutes. The number will increase once the operations shift to BIAL, which justifies having CAT-II ILS, which costs a little more.

"It will be very difficult for the new airport to change from CAT I to CAT II at later stage, as they will have only one runway till 2011-12. For CAT II, they need to put runway centre lighting system,"an expert said.

While, air travellers will continue to suffer, the BIAL is preparing to deliver yet another blow to them in the form of user charge.

Before facing these problems, people have to first mend their way through the traffic on Bellary Road. The road-widening work is continuing, but is unlikely to be ready by the time airport is operational.

Even after widening, the roads will not be free of bottlenecks and people coming from South Bangalore will suffer the traffic, especially during peak hours.

USER CHARGES: The BIAL is planning to impose user charges on those travelling from the new airport. While it will be Rs 675 for domestic passengers, international passengers have to shell out Rs 955-plus. If the Ministry of Civil Aviation approves the BIAL proposal, Bangalore will be the first airport in India to impose such steep user charges.

The BIAL claims that revenue generated from the user charges is important for airport operations. The Authority, however, has not clarified why it is collecting user charges from people.

TRAFFIC PROBLEM: Even if the Bellary Road is widened it will not be free from bottlenecks, especially at Hebbal Flyover.

It will take nearly two hours for people from South Bangalore to the airport during peak hours. Though the State Government is planning to have high-speed rail links, it will take time to put the project on track.


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