Kolkata airport ready for take-off?
If the Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials were to be believed, the much-awaited modernised integrated terminal building at Kolkata airport should be ready by September 30 this year. But is the Kolkata airport’s operational infrastructure being developed on parallel lines to handle the projected number of passengers and aircrafts — expected to grow significantly in the near future? If not, it is time for the AAI officials to ensure modernisation and upgradation of the airport’s operational area so that it can make complete use of the state-of-the-art terminal building.
When the new building becomes operable, the passenger handling capacity of the Kolkata airport will shoot up to 25 million passengers per year against the airport’s capacity of handling only five million passengers per year at present.
Thus, a major cause of concern for AAI officials at present is to increase the capacity of the airport to handle more aircrafts. Increasing the passenger-handling capacity of the airport will not make sense unless the targeted passengers are offered enough number of planes to travel in.
According to AAI officials, though the Kolkata airport is not getting its new Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower as per initial plans, the other systems are being upgraded to handle movement of aircrafts in a better and efficient manner. The high-tech ATC automation project is also under way and will start functioning on time.
The automation project is expected to help enhance the runway’s aircraft-handling capacity. At present, the Kolkata airport runway can handle 25 aircrafts per hour during peak hours. After introducing the automation, the capacity would increase by more than 50% over the existing capacity and the runway will be able to handle as many as 45 aircrafts per hour during peak hours.
“We have anticipated the increase in the movement of aircrafts and passengers. Once the new integrated building is ready and increasing the traffic movement becomes necessary, the new ATC technology will be essential,” said Manohar Lehkra, regional executive director, Kolkata airport. This is only one of the several benefits that the Kolkata airport would enjoy as a result of automation. Saving fuel, reducing the operating cost, gains to environment by reduction in emission are some of the others.
The AAI has already installed and commissioned Advanced Surface Movement Guided Control System at the airport. This special radar can monitor movement of aircrafts and other vehicles in the entire operational area of the airport.
Anticipating an increase in aircraft movement after the new terminal building starts functioning, the AAI has also increased the parking space. The airport previously had 45 parking bays. While the number of bays have already been increased to 59, two additional bays have been constructed in front of the international cargo complex for parking of cargo planes and one exclusive parking bay has been constructed for parking the largest aircraft on earth — the Airbus A 380 aircraft. The AAI plans to construct more parking bays on the eastern side of the airport, towards the Rajarhat–Narayanpur direction.