Minor paperwork is the only formality left before the Mumbai airport’s air traffic managers begin tracking every airfield movement without straining their eyes.
The surface movement radar (SMR), critical for congested airports such as the city airport, was being run on an experimental basis. This trial run ended successfully earlier this week.
“It would be operational soon after the necessary paperwork at the Delhi headquarters is completed,” said an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official requesting anonymity.
Air safety experts feel that a SMR would make the air traffic control’s (ATC) work simpler by ensuring proper coordination between ground and air traffic. At congested airfields such as Mumbai, these radars are necessary to avoid accidents. The ATC radars can trace flights above 500 metres but there is no device to monitor their movement as soon as they come close to the ground.
In addition to this, there are flights taxiing for take-offs and about 500 vehicles comprising catering vans, oil tankers and airline coaches plying on the airfield.
Registration numbers of these vehicles would be fed in the radar system, which will throw digital images of their airfield movement on the ATC official’s monitor. “At night and during cloudy days when the visibility drops, the radar would ease our pressure,” said an ATC official requesting anonymity.
The airport has been awaiting the radar for more than a year. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation had recommended installation of the radar in May 2010, after a Jet Airways flight nearly collided with an Indigo Airline flight at Mumbai airport.
However, till October officials were unable to find a suitable location to install it, following which the civil aviation ministry extended the deadline to December 31.
Mumbai airport, meanwhile, witnessed two airfield incidents as the AAI missed the deadline yet again.