An automated system introduced at the Mumbai airport last week to eliminate errors in communications between pilots and the air traffic control (ATC) tower will not serve its purpose for some time because a majority of the aircraft operating out of the city are not compatible with the technology, said officials.
According to airport sources, less than 10% planes operating out of Mumbai airport are compatible with Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC).
“Barring a few wide bodied aircraft used by international carriers such as Emirates and Qatar Airways, very few aircraft are compatible. Therefore, the service cannot be put to use completely,” said a senior ATC official requesting anonymity.
CPDLC, a project worth approximately Rs. 5 crore, was introduced to replace the current system wherein an ATC official gives crucial instructions such as which runway to land on or the cruising altitude to be maintained.
In the new system, a pilot can request ATC instructions using the flight management computer in the cockpit. The ATC official can select the appropriate clearance from the computer database and relay the instruction with the press of a button. The data is transmitted to the cockpit of the aircraft via data link. “Unless the government makes it mandatory to induct the technology, the system would only be an alternative,” said another ATC official.