Arriving soon: A new system to help Mumbai airport fly past its capacity
The Mumbai Air Traffic Controller (ATC) currently uses a 15-year-old air system, which is unable to bear the load of growing air traffic.Updated: Aug 19, 2019 01:38 IST
Soon, the Mumbai airport may be able to work to its maximum capacity of 1,040 flights a day or even more.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has floated an expression of interest to buy a new air traffic management (ATM) system, which will help accommodate maximum flights in a given period of time, along with taking care of contingencies such as closure of neighbouring airspaces or other emergency situations that pressurise Mumbai’s air traffic. Senior AAI officials said the aim is to get the new system working within 15 months.
The Mumbai Air Traffic Controller (ATC) currently uses a 15-year-old air system, which is unable to bear the load of growing air traffic. The maintenance contract for the system has expired, and its spare parts too are not available in the market.
The lack of back-up in the old system was highlighted in April, when one of the four machines (part of the guiding system) called Lower Area Control (LAC) crashed as the Mumbai ATC had to manage a 60% rise in air traffic, following closure of airspace in Pakistan in February. The system first crashed on March 30 for a few minutes. On April 5, it took 20 minutes to get back to normal. The issue was then discussed on seniormost levels in Mumbai and a proposal for a new system was sent to AAI’s headquarters in Delhi.
A senior Mumbai ATC official said, “We have asked for additional features in the system that will allow automatic time-based spacing between two aircraft. This will help accommodate more number of aircraft in the airspace at a time. Apart from this, the automated system will help controllers manage air traffic, make quicker decisions about an aircraft, if needed, thereby reducing stress, and help better planning for aircraft landing and take-offs. As it will take around 15 months for the system to be in place, AAI is in the process of renewing the maintenance contract of the current system.”
It will be procured in two phases. In the first phase, the new system will be installed in the current facility of Mumbai air traffic service (ATS) complex. As AAI has already started planning for a new modern ATS complex at a location near terminal 2, in the second phase, the system will be installed in this new facility.
ATC operates in four sectors surrounding Mumbai for upper airspace, four sectors in oceanic airspace and two sectors in terminal airspace (for take-offs and landings). The capacity of each sector in upper airspace is about 26 to 30 flights an hour, but during peak hours, the number exceeds the capacity significantly. When Pakistan’s airspace was closed, Mumbai ATC was managing traffic two or three times than the sector capacity. “Mumbai ATC needs two more sectors in upper airspace and in oceanic airspace and one in terminal airspace. But the current system hardware and software limitations do not allow for more sectors to be created,” he said.
The new system will take care of the need for additional sectors when Navi Mumbai airport is operational. The AAI also plans to replace ATM at Shamshabad, Bengaluru airports.