Thursday, December 07, 2017

Flights at smaller airports to be ‘remote-controlled’ from Chennai

Chennai: With the Regional Connectivity Scheme set to take off, Airports Authority of India (AAI) is planning to set up remote air traffic control (ATC) towers to guide flights at small airports. A proposal is under discussion to install a remote ATC tower in Chennai to control landing and take-off of flights at Salem, Kadapa and Puducherry airports. Similarly, a remote tower at the Thiruvananthapuram airport for handling planes at Agatti in Lakshadweep islands is also on the radar.
The country's first remote ATC will come up at Ahmedabad for handling flights at Surat airport under a pilot programme. An expression of interest has been floated and the project is likely to take off by December-end or early January. The second pilot programme is expected to be carried out in Chennai.
"The plan is in its initial stage but discussions are going on to have a remote ATC tower in Chennai to handle aircraft at the three small airports where there may be one or two services a day. The idea is to avoid building a tower and station controllers, and keeping a maintenance team at small airports. AAI will be able to cut cost by adopting this system," a senior official of AAI said.
Salem, Puducherry, Neyveli, Kadapa and Hosur will be connected under the first phase of regional connectivity scheme after which the ministry will look at awarding routes to Thanjavur and Ramnad, the air strips held by the defence, under phase 2 of the programme if airlines are interested.
"It is not feasible to post controllers and build ATC towers at these small airports. A remote tower will be as good as a controller sitting on site at the airport. High resolution cameras will capture all parts of the operational area and will transmit images live to the remote tower. Controllers can zoom and see obstacles," said another official.
Hi-tech communication equipment will be installed at these airports linking them to Chennai. Controllers will use voice communication with pilots to direct them for landing and take off. "If they spot animals or other objects on the runway, the controllers will alert the staff at the airport," he said.
07/12/17 V Ayyappan/Times of India