Flying into and out of the capital has seldom been anything but a dodgy proposition for passengers. And now, with the holiday rush on, air congestion and flight delays seem to be plaguing them even more as problems of weather, infrastructure and airport management increasingly affect flight movements.
If the last weekend was any indication — more than 60 per cent of domestic flights were disrupted, as were several international flights — passengers and airlines alike are in for a bad time.
Things could only get worse, given the blinding fog that religiously descends on Delhi in the first week of every new year.
That Delhi’s air traffic controllers (ATCs) are facing the heat for incidents of ‘near misses’ and their changing stance on the simultaneous use of both runways hardly help matters. The problem with Delhi is that both the primary and secondary runways lie at an angle, so aircraft taking off from one will have its path intersecting the other about a mile out.
With a third runway still a year away, deft management of aircraft movement is imperative. Unfortunately, while air traffic has increased exponentially at all major airports, very few ATCs seem to be available to handle this. Quick-fix solutions — like the Airports Authority of India’s decision to provide crash course training to rookie controllers in Delhi — are just that. Such measures would only make airports more and more capacity constrained, resulting in further delays and frustrating both passengers and aircraft operators.
In crisis situations like, say, traffic overload or ATC disruptions, managing the passenger flow would become chaotic, which could lead to potentially dangerous situations.
It is no secret that over 40 per cent of the airspace in India is under military control. So perhaps it’s a good idea to have a more rational air traffic management system to make better use of the current largely separate civil and military ATC infrastructures. In other words, civilian and military aircraft could share airspace wherever possible, and civilian and military ATCs could even be ‘co-located’ with the help of satellite systems for more flexible use of airspace.