Pulling up officials from the Airports Authority of India for the delay in setting up the Surface Movement Radar at the city airport, the civil aviation ministry has set a deadline of December 31 for the installation.
The ground-based radar is crucial for the Mumbai airport because it shows a digital map of anything from a dog to a jumbo jet moving on the tarmac even during low visibility.
Air traffic controllers have a similar map to track aircraft movement in the air, but there is no visual assistance to monitor traffic on the ground.
“We have given them a final deadline of December 31 to make the radar functional,” said Alok Sinha, joint secretary with the civil aviation ministry.
The move comes a week after the Mumbai airport witnessed two airfield accidents, where a construction worker was critically injured and a passenger hurt his foot (See box, Incidents this month).
The Airports Authority of India had procured the radar in February but failed to install it before monsoon.
Then the public sector undertaking set itself an October deadline, but failed to finish work on time again.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation had also recommended the setting up of such radar following a near-collision between a Jet Airways and Indigo flight on May 27.
“We are training our staff to use the Surface Movement Radar,” said MG Jhunghare, general manager, Air Traffic Controller (western region).
Airport sources claim that operations in Mumbai airport is risky without a Surface Movement Radar because the country’s second busiest airport handles take-offs and landings simultaneously from two runways intersecting each other.
“The chances of a two planes moving on the same runway or a airfield vehicle blocking the movement of a flight is very high,” said a Boeing commander working with a private airline on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media.
In addition to flight movement, there are around 2,000 people and 500 vehicles occupying the Mumbai airfield at any given time. These vehicles comprise safety jeeps, catering vans, airline coaches and oil tankers.