With a view to reduce airspace congestion over Delhi, which would also result in lower carbon emissions, a new air traffic control (ATC) tower started its official operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Monday. The new control tower also aims to ease the pressure on controllers and provide relief to flyers from delays.
Hardeep Singh Puri, Union minister of state for civil aviation, attended the commissioning of the new tower along with senior officers from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the civil aviation ministry.
Built at a cost of Rs. 250 crore, the new complex comprises three buildings — the aerodrome control tower, area approach control services building, and the administrative block. Another Rs. 100 crore was spent on modern air navigation systems and advanced automation systems to enhance safety and the capacity of air traffic operations. The older tower will also continue to function and will act as a backup for the new tower.
At a height of 101.9 metres, the tower is the country’s tallest ATC structure, and houses over 45 workstations — the older building could accommodate only around 30 workstations. The tallest tower will also have a better operational area visibility.
“From the old tower, which is 60 metres high, our controllers did not get a clear view of the entire airport. The new tower gives them a bird’s eye view of all three runways and the cargo area. Even though a controller takes decisions based on calculations, and with the help of automated systems, a better view of the operational area always puts a controller in a position to take better decisions,” an ATC controller, who is not authorised to speak to the media, said.
Further, the new tower allows controllers to divide the air space into nine sectors, four more than the present five sectors. “This will reduce the number of flights handled by one controller in an hour and thereby ease the pressure on controllers,” a senior officer from the ATC said.
The officer said the new ATC will also benefit passengers arriving in Delhi as the “holdover time” will be lesser. “This is called an independent parallel approach. With increased capacity of controllers and more workstations, we will be able to have two controllers dedicated to handling arrivals. Currently, only one controller handles arrivals on both runways at the same time,” the officer said, adding that lesser congestion will also lead to reduction in radio telephonic congestion and carbon emissions.
One of the most sensitive installations in the national capital, the new ATC tower will have a multilayered security. While the Central Industrial Security Force, which guards the airport, will secure the tower from the ground, representatives of the Indian Air Force, Delhi Police and Airports Authority of India will also be present in the control room to combat any possible threat.
The tower also has a “central committee control room” that will be activated in the event of a crisis. The Delhi Police commissioner, the CISF chief at the airport, senior officers from Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and other agencies are a part of this committee, which is headed by the DCGA director, sources said.
“At least 20 of our men will be stationed at the tower round the clock. Our job is to provide security to the structure and the tower approach. Since the Delhi airport falls in the category of ‘hypersensitive’ airports, we have a standard operating procedure to follow and no chances can be taken with the tower’s security,” a senior CISF officer said.