New Bangalore airport's launch deadline to early for safe operations, say staffers

Bangalore: Serious doubts are being raised about the possibility of the new Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) coming up at Devanahalli being able to meet its 30 March launch deadline. According to news reports, air traffic controllers (ATCs) of the new airport have expressed their apprehensions to officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) about the rushed manner in which the operational launch of the airport is being carried out.

Bangalore's new international airport is due to commence operations at the end of the month.

According to reports, though a strength of 80 air traffic controllers is required to launch full scale services, BIAL currently has only 25 such personnel at its disposal and, according to the ATCs posted to the airport, commencement of services with such a depleted strength would be irresponsible as it involves taking serious risks. The airport can only start skeletal service with such numbers, they say, on 30 March.

Though 25 additional ATCs were due to join soon, the number would still be inadequate to handle the scale of traffic that was expected at the new airport. The airport expects about 480 traffic movements a day, which is a very high number.

According to experienced ATC personnel, another important factor which goes against a hurried deployment of ATC staff is that controllers normally require about eight months to be "rated", which is the time required for them to become familiar with the traffic pattern in a new location.

Adding to the problems is the fact that aircraft navigational equipment at the Devanahalli airport, including radars, consoles, Instrument Landing System (ILS), Visual Omni Range, supplied by an Italian company, Selex Systemi Integrati Ltd., was likely to be installed only by 20 March.

ATC sources also point out that the ATC tower was itself handed over only last month.

Apparently ATC staff has warned AAI officials that the rush to meet deadlines may have serious consequences.