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New ATC mode for old air woes

Aircraft hovering over the Delhi airport, and hours-long delays due to air traffic congestion will soon be a thing of the past.

delhi Updated: May 05, 2011 00:07 IST
Sidhartha Roy

Aircraft hovering over the Delhi airport, and hours-long delays due to air traffic congestion will soon be a thing of the past.

Performance-based navigation (PBN), an advanced air traffic management system being used at the Indira Gandhi International airport, will not only make flying much safer, it is also expected to decongest the airport.

In the PBN, aircraft can use installed on-board technology instead of the present ground-based navigation system and would be able to fly more flexibly and accurately.

Apart from tackling congestion, aircraft would also save fuel. At present, aircraft lose huge amount of the expensive aviation turbine fuel (ATF) while waiting for permission to land.

"Pilots are dependent on the air traffic controller to guide them on navigation, landing and take-off. With the new system, the detailed flight plan, including the exact time of touchdown, is fed into the aircraft's navigation system," said a senior air traffic controller who didn't wish to be named.

"Unlike earlier, they would also know which aircraft is ahead or behind them and this will cut down on unnecessary hovering," he said.

This means less room for error and also decreases the workload on controllers, who used to handle multiple flights at the same time.

PBN was installed at the airport two years ago but started functioning fully from April 7, 2010 after the Airports Authority of India, which manages air traffic at all Indian airports, finetuned and redesigned the system and revised old procedures.

"Success of this system depends on more discipline on the part of the pilots. They would have to maintain systematic speed and vacate the runway quickly after landing," the controller said.

"Also, not all aircraft are PBN compliant and a separate corridor has to be used for them."