There seems to be no end to the teething troubles dogging the new terminal building of the city airport. After the unseemly episode of glass panels cracking and giving way, parking of international flights has emerged as the latest bugbear for the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
According to airport sources, the AAI officials could soon be drawn to mobilising measures to remove the bottlenecks at the parking bays close to the international wing of the new terminal building. While the parking bays have no known functional issues, problems do crop up when an international flight has already been parked at one of the bays and another needs to wheel in to the bay area to weigh anchor.
The incoming aircraft, said sources, is made to wait till such time the flight already parked has taxied off for take-off. The problem has been particularly rife with flights of the Singapore Airlines and Dragon Air, said sources.
“Flights of Singapore Airlines touch down at the city airport before those of Dragon Air and dock early at the parking bay on the international wing of the new terminal. Flights of the Hong Kong-based operators are hence made to wait for as long as 10-15 minutes, till those of the Singapore Airlines have been taxied out to the runway for take-off,” a senior pilot and a former member of the Regional Operators’ Committee (ROC), told HT. “The provision of a parallel taxi track could be a way out of the situation,” the pilot said.
Quizzed on the matter, BP Sharma, director of the city airport, said, “The existing taxi links at the Kolkata airport are as per international norms. Most airports across the country and overseas have similar systems. The airport currently draws no more than 20-22 international flights and the prevailing taxi and apron bays are more than adequate. Most parking bays largely remain vacant. The AAI has plans to develop more parking bays and additional tracks if and when the air traffic increases. There are plans for more such spaces under phase-II of development of the new terminal,” Sharma said.
Sources said the problem is rife in bays 57 and 59 of the new international terminal. What further compounds the process of arrival and departure of flights in the bay area is that it is not properly visible to the air traffic controllers. The same is part of the key operational area earmarked for flight departures that is blocked from the view of air traffic controllers.
The Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower is located right between the old domestic and international terminal buildings. While the domestic terminal is to the right of ATC tower, the international terminal is to the left. With the old terminals on either side, the ATC has a clear view of the bays and operational areas at both terminals.
The new terminal building has come up on the right of the old domestic terminal and only a portion of it is along the same straight-line alignment of the ATC and the two old towers. The remaining portion of the new terminal cuts a 45-degree bend to the right and is thus blocked from view of the ATC.
Sources said as many as four to six parking bays are located on the blocked out space. Hence, no international flight anchored in these bays could be taxied for take-off without a mandatory ground clearance from the ATC.
Some airport officials are tasked to monitor flights anchored in these bays and inform the ATC before takeoff. The tower then sends back instructions on the movement of flights from this part of the operational area. This further disrupts the international flight schedule, said sources.