MUMBAI: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has proposed to set up an antenna on top of the new air traffic control (ATC) tower opposite the domestic terminals in Vile Parle to help offer better assistance to chopper pilots.
The proposal addresses a long-standing issue of limited communication help from the air traffic control (ATC) tower at Juhu. With the city’s skies getting crowded with more skyscrapers, choppers are finding it difficult to navigate without this support.
“The new tower has adequate space on the terrace. Therefore, we are contemplating adding an antenna to augment communication with chopper pilots,” said a senior ATC official requesting anonymity.
Radio connectivity from the existing Juhu tower is limited for chopper pilots as they fly at low altitudes.
“The height of existing antenna cannot be raised as that could disturb scheduled air traffic in the city. At the same time, since choppers fly at 500ft to 700ft the signalling is very week,” said an official from the Juhu ATC.
The official added that choppers particularly bound towards the Arabian Sea get very little help from the tower, as the signalling above the sea is the weakest.
Juhu is the only airfield in the country that witnessed about 100 helicopter movements in a day, bulk of which are flights ferrying workers to oil rigs at Bombay High, an offshore oilfield off the city coast.
The new proposal surfaced last week after the AAI’s search to shift the existing tower to a new location made little headway over the past two years.
Chopper operators had recently asked the air navigation establishment to raise the height for laid down helicopter paths citing safety risks posed by the city’s soaring skyline.
“The increasing number of high rises in the city has changed the risks faced by helicopter pilots. As a result better communication support from the AAI is extremely necessary in the near future,” said a senior pilot with a private helicopter operator.