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Private airlines rule skies, IAF waits for take-off

There is increase in commercial flights taking off or touching down from major airports, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 02:21 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis

This is one battle for the skies that the Indian Air Force is losing. Thanks to the sharp increase in commercial flights taking off or touching down from major airports, there have been scores of instances where IAF aircraft were forced to wait for the signal to fly, or land.

Commercial flights have a fixed time for departure and arrival. The number of such flights having increased due to the civil aviation boom, the civil airport authorities have had to accommodate the flights at the cost of flights of IAF aircraft, which always fly on operational duty.

“There are three kinds of flights that operate out of an airport. The first is scheduled flight category, which include commercial flights and IAF's courier flights. The second category is the non-scheduled flight — 99 per cent of which are carried out by the IAF. The last category is that of special flights, which could mean VIP flights,'' sources said.

Any aircraft flying off needs a civil clearance in the form of a flight information centre number (FICN). Air force flights also need an air defence clearance. “There have been many cases even in Delhi, where IAF aircraft have got the required clearance but have had to wait on the runaway before getting the signal from the Air Traffic Controller (ATC). In some cases, IAF aircraft engines were on but the pilot had to wait. In other cases, IAF aircraft were not given permission to land,'' sources said.

Traditionally, scheduled flights have always got preference because of its nature. “IAF flights, however, could be as important. The flight could be carrying important cargo,'' sources said. As a result of heavy air traffic, scheduled flights also get delayed but still get preference over IAF flights.

Besides resulting in loss of money, this is also leading to aircrew fatigue — again, a risk to flight safety, sources added.

The IAF is likely to approach the National Airport Authority of India so that the flights of civil and air force are better coordinated.

First Published: Apr 05, 2006 01:13 IST