The civil aviation ministry has set a June 2012 deadline for the Mumbai airport to increase its flight handling capacity. If everything goes according to the plan, the number of take-offs and landings at the city airport will go up from the current 30 flights per hour to 48 per hour — a 60 % increase.
The proposal has been shuttling between government offices since May. Finally, last week, a panel comprising airlines, the airport operator, air traffic controllers (ATC) and ministry officials reached a consensus on the deadline. To achieve the target, Mumbai airport will be using only its main runway. "The panel studying the proposal found that cross-runway operations lead to delays. Therefore the secondary runway would be used only during contingencies," said a senior official from the civil aviation ministry, requesting anonymity.
Using a single runway was a key suggestion made by NATS, a UK-based consultant hired by the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) in January to prepare a plan on increasing the airport’s flight capacity. As part of the process, a team of ATC officials from Mumbai will visit Gatwick airport in London in November to get a first-hand experience of its High Intensity Runway Operations. Gatwick handles close to double the number of take-offs and landings in Mumbai.
NATS also suggested two major changes in the air navigational tools used in Mumbai. The airport's navigation system is expected to get an advanced software — Airport Arrival Manager — by December. The Air Traffic Flow Management system, another state-of the-art programme is likely to be inducted in the setup by June 2012. Aviation experts said the increase in flight movements would reflect in reduced fares. "If the flight movement increases by 12 per hour, more seats will be available. Hence, fares will automatically go down," said an expert.