Centre mulls tracking flights remotely at regional airports

The cost of building an ATC tower is between Rs.100 and Rs.300 crore

The Centre is planning to monitor flights landing at regional airports remotely instead of constructing new traffic control towers near such airports in a bid to cut costs, an official said.

Flights landing at regional airports will receive instructions from an air traffic control officer who might be sitting miles away at an air traffic control room located at a major airport in the city.

“We are planning to go for remote air traffic control (ATC) systems being used and experimented in advanced countries to support the regional connectivity scheme,” Airports Authority of India (AAI) Member (Air Navigation Services) A.K. Datta said. The present law requires each airport in India to have its own traffic control tower which exchanges all sorts of information related to final approach, landing or take-off of a plane to weather or any kind of emergency or hazard with the pilot.

Some aviation experts have said that building an ATC tower infrastructure could cost between Rs.100 crore and Rs.300 crore.

The remote monitoring of planes has been tested in several markets such as Norway, Ireland, Australia and the United States.

Many major British airports are also considering centralised monitoring of air traffic services from a larger airport. “There’s no need to have costly ATC paraphernalia and controllers at every regional airport,” said Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG.

“These airports will see three-seven flights a week. Pilots can land in good visibility under visual flight rules (VFR). For low visibility or night flights, we must experiment with remote ATC towers as has been tried in Australia and Sweden.”

Retired personnel
The Airports Authority of India (AAI), which provides air navigation services across the country, also plans to hire retired air traffic controllers to further cut down costs on training and to recruit people quickly.

At present, 69 airports receive commercial flights and AAI’s manpower requirement is set to increase with the government’s plans to revive flight operations at another 50 airports in the next three to four years.

India has about 2,300 air traffic control officers (ATCOs) at present and another 400 ATCOs will get trained by next year. By 2020, the requirement of ATCOs will go up to 3,599, according to a study conducted by the US-based Washington Consultancy Group by AAI.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *