Sunday, March 09, 2008

Airport launch hits rough weather

Airport launch hits rough weather
From Rasheed Kappan and B S Arun, DH News Service, Bangalore/New Delhi:
Barely three weeks to go for the scheduled launch of the Bengaluru International Airport, uncertainty looms large over its commissioning date...

In the wake of air safety concerns raised by an incomplete Air Traffic Control (ATC) facility, top Civil Aviation Ministry officials will meet early next week to take a final decision on whether to operationalise the airport on March 30 as scheduled or put it off.

Highly placed ministry sources told Deccan Herald that the issue of the commercial launch was “still open”.

Airports Authority of India (AAI) personnel working on the ATC facility are learnt to have categorically told a visiting Civil Aviation committee that they had to get at least a month’s training on the various equipment before the ATC could be commissioned.

Global practice

According to the standard norm followed worldwide, after a calibration flight, the Communication, Navigation, Surveillance and Air Traffic Management (CNS-ATM) equipment attached to the ATC are to be kept in hot standby mode for 1,000 hours. This is to help the system get stabilised and the personnel get familiarised with the working.

The sources said in the next few days, officials of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), AAI and the Ministry would coordinate with all the departments concerned, to see whether the airport could be readied for launch by March 30.

Safety issues

The officials, it is learnt, were not keen to postpone the launch. However, if they were not convinced about the safety issues, the date might be deferred.

During their previous visit to the airport site on February 29, the Civil Aviation Ministry officials had asked the BIAL to ensure that the critical ATC facility, controlled by AAI, was ready by March 20.

Stressing their need to get trained in the ATC equipment, the AAI staff at the new airport had reportedly sought a month’s time for the same. During this period they wanted to use the facility to monitor the existing traffic at the HAL airport, and gain real-time experience, so vital for such a large international airport.

Top airport sources told this newspaper that ATC was the most critical component and problems, if any, over it could not be sorted out in a hurry. “It is going to be tough task if they want the ATC problem solved and get the airport launched on March 30,” quipped a top official.

AAI’s responsibility

BIAL CEO, Albert Brunner on Friday maintained that the ATC was part of the responsibility of the Airports Authority of India.

“AAI is responsible for air traffic management. I don’t install it (the various ATC equipment), I don’t test it, I don’t have the experience,” he said when asked whether the BIAL launch was feasible, before completion of the 1,000 hour hot-standby mode period of the ATC equipment.


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