Chats solve language-related delays at city airport
Do you know why your flight was stuck on the runway the last time you flew out? It could have been because of your expat pilot’s inability to understand instructions in English from Air Traffic Control (ATC) officers, reports Soubhik Mitra.india Updated: Apr 16, 2009 01:29 IST
Do you know why your flight was stuck on the runway the last time you flew out? It could have been because of your expat pilot’s inability to understand instructions in English from Air Traffic Control (ATC) officers.
One of the major reasons behind the persistent delays has been the communication problem between foreign pilots and the ATC. The accents were posing the most problems; pilots from countries like Kazakhstan, Russia and Korea struggled to understand ATC instructions.
There were 944 expat pilots in India till March 2008, according to Ministry of Civil Aviation data.
Realising that it was severely impacting flight management, airport authorities tried to sort it out through informal chats between ATC officers and pilots. The result was immediate: runway occupancy for flights was brought down to 60 seconds flat in a matter of days.
By last month, the ATC managed an average of 35 air traffic movements (take-offs and landings) per hour as compared to 30 earlier.
MG Jhungare, general manager, ATC Mumbai, said: “We started [the informal chats] as an experiment a couple of months ago. They are routine now. Pilots from all domestic airlines visit the ATC tower to understand each other’s work.” He added: “We managed to cut down holding time by around 10 minutes per hour. Multiply that with 10 hours of peak traffic we saved 100 minutes and fuel worth that time.”
ATC officers and pilots are often at loggerheads. An Air India pilot on a Mumbai-Goa flight allegedly abused an ATC official on March 21 because the latter asked him to slow down. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is probing the matter.
Mumbai airport handles over 700 air traffic movements every day, the highest in the country. With elections around the corner, VIP movement too has increased manifold.
“[The chats] are helping. We talk to the ATC every day, but getting to know them helps,” said Captain R Ottal, of the Indian Commercial Pilot Association. An expat pilot added: “We had problems with ATC officers’ accents. Such chats should be started in Delhi too.”