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Do you think Indian ATC is doing enough to reduce RT congestion in the skies ?
Today, the Indian Aviation in enjoying a boom of sorts. The number of aircraft flying in and out of Indian airports has dramatically shot up, from the 71, 699 flights in 2004 to 72, 524 flights now. But this increase in flights is also making us think seriously about one aspect of Indian Aviation. Is the Air Traffic Management System and infrastructure in the country geared to handle the rapidly increasing traffic and able to cater to future needs?

The interim  draft of the K. Roy Paul committee lists a litany of problems in both the Air Traffic Management System and various airports as well as the infrastructure supporting it. The report talks about the deteriorating state of Air Traffic Control automation systems and ‘highly alarming’ shortage of ATCOs. Finally, the committee also points out at under-utilization of equipment and infrastructure already present.

Indian Aviation is fast opening up. A number of new airlines have been given permission to start their operations with the result of a big jump in the number of flights handled by the metro Airports. Then, a number of bilateral reciprocal agreements signed between two countries allowing each other’s planes to fly within each other’s territory, have been signed. This again resulted in the increase of number of foreign airlines coming in and going out of India. There has also been a rise in the overlying aircraft, aircraft that do not land or take off in our airports but use our airspace to fly through.

Air traffic has grown by 26 percent in the past two years compared to the 10-12 percent growth in the developed countries. But, in comparison to the growth of traffic are we really geared up to handle this growth in terms of infrastructure and man-power planning? Through various committees of government have been formed to study the problems of Indian Airports and Air Traffic Control systems and address their problems by suggesting solutions, the situations has not improved very much.

There is definitely a manpower shortage in Air Traffic Control. There were 900 ATCOs handling 71, 699 flights in 2004 and though the flights have increased twenty fold, the number of ATCOs haven’t. In the last four-five years there were no recruitment of ATCOs leading to severe shortage of man-power. It is only now that about 172 ATCOs have been recruited against a need felt for another one thousand, who are undergoing training and are yet to take over their duty rounds in different airports.

Among metro-cities, in Delhi, only two sectors of the area control centers and one sector of approach controls is functioning against four ACCs and three APPs planned. Compared to other countries where a radar controller is expected to keep an eye on two to three routes, a radar controller here keeps a surveillance watch on 17-18 routes all at the same time. Many units of air Traffic Control in various major airports cannot be made functional due to shortage of trained manpower, despite recommendations have been received to establish them in the interest of safe air traffic management.
Landing and take offs Over flying
June 2004 12629 7437
June 2005 13850 6782
June 2004 10615 3476
June 2005 12634 4614
All India
June 2004 71699 21382
June 2005 72524 22450
Total No. of Controllers
June 2004 900
June 2005 900
Incidents (Jan. to June) Numbers
June 2004 3
June 2005 9
From the figure of incidents, which are events that are serious and could have led to accidents, one can easily see the increasing trend. This is alarming.

It is high time we address this crucial sector of Indian Aviation if we want safe progress of Indian Aviation. What are we required to do as an immediate measure?
Decrease the workload of Air Traffic controllers in the busiest of Indian Airports like Mumbai and Delhi by inducting more trained man power to begin with. Also make functional all the ATC units not yet functional and working combined with other units of ATC as recommended by various safety audits in all others airports by inducting more man power.
Improve the working standards of navigational aids, instrument landing systems, radar, VHF, HF etc. because all these aid to  safe air traffic management.
The upper wind data and all other date from the Metrological Department is required to be interfaced with the Air Traffic Systems for better Air Traffic Management.
Imparting more training and awareness to our Air Traffic Controllers to make them ready to give their best in the heavy load and high stress environment.
The solutions have been suggested by various recommendations of various government committees. The question of the hour is how fast we can act on them in the interest of safe Air Traffic Management of Indian Skies.