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Print edition : Sep 12, 2008 T+T-
An artists impression of what the Chennai airport will look like after modernisation by the AAI.-BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

An artists impression of what the Chennai airport will look like after modernisation by the AAI.-BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Interview with AAI Chairman K. Ramalingam.

THE Airports Authority of India is moving at a fast pace in modernising the countrys airports and improving the efficiency of its air traffic system.

Excerpts from an interview with its Chairman K. Ramalingam:

The AAI has got the approval of the Cabinet Committee for Economic Affairs (CCEA) to go ahead with the modernisation and upgradation of the Kolkata and Chennai airports. When will be able to start work on them? What wi

The AAI had been pursuing project planning and pre-award activities in tandem with the other activities. The result of this is that we are able to cut down the processing time for award of work, which would otherwise have started after the approvals were procured. These works will be awarded soon. Both the airports are going to be modern terminal buildings with efficient systems in place. Further, the design of both terminal buildings have been selected through an architectural design competition.

Kolkatas new airport will have a modern integrated passenger terminal capable of handling 20 million passengers annually, which will be sufficient to meet the demand up to 2015-16. The terminal building will have an area of 1,80,000 sq metres; it will have 104 check-in counters, 44 immigration counters, 25 security gates, five conveyor belts and 15 aerobridges. In addition, automation will be introduced in CNS/ATM [Communication. Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management] operations and a new control tower will be built. The project envisages an investment of about Rs.1,942 crore and is targeted to be completed in 30 months from award of work.

As regards Chennai, the AAI has undertaken the development of a modern terminal building with an annual handling capacity of 10 million passengers; it will be integrated with the existing terminals over a period of time and will have the same facade. This will provide an overall handling capacity of 23 million passengers a year [7 million international passengers and 16 million domestic passengers]. This will be sufficient to cater to the demand up to 2018 in respect of international passenger traffic and 2013 in respect of domestic passenger traffic. The terminal building will have an area measuring 1,40,000 sq m, 140 check-in counters, 60 immigration counters, seven security gates, four conveyor belts, seven aerobridges and eight travelators. It envisages an investment of Rs.1,808 crore. The project is targeted to be completed in 26 months from the award of work.

As for competition with Delhi and Mumbai airports, I must say that the dedicated and skilled human resource of the AAI is geared to meet the upcoming challenges in the civil aviation sector.

You are also going ahead with the modernisation of 35 non-metro airports in phases. What is the progress on the project? How many non-metro airports will have their upgradation work completed by the next one year?

Yes, we have identified 35 non-metro airports for development and these airports are being developed in two phases. In Phase-I, 24 airports will be completed by March 2009 and the rest will be completed by March 2010. Out of this, two airports Udaipur and Nagpur have already been completed and put into operation. Four other airports that have been completed and put into operation are the ones at Kozhikode, Hubli, Kullu [Bhuntar] and Surat. The list of airports where works are in progress include Agatti, Visakhapatnam, Tiruchi, Jaipur, Pune, Amritsar, Dehra Dun, Aurangabad, Mangalore, Srinagar, Thiruvananthapuram, Chandigarh, Varanasi, Khajuraho, Lucknow, Madurai and Ahmedabad. In addition, development works are in progress at nine other airports. These are: Akola, Belgaum, Cooch Behar, Kadapa, Dibrugarh, Gondia, Mysore, Rajahmundry and Vijayawada. In addition, works are in progress/planned/under consideration in the following 29 places: Bhuj, Bagdogra, Gaya, Jabalpur, Jodhpur Jaisalmer, Jorhat, Jamnagar, Kandla, Keshod, Leh, Ludhiana, Porbandar, Pantnagar, Shimla, Shillong, Tirupati, Passighat, Tezu, Ziro, Kailashahar, Kamalpur, Tura, Jharsuguda, Behala, Malda and Vellore.

Thus, over a period of time, AAI will be able to modernise many more than the 35 airports.

AAI is entrusted with the responsibility of air traffic management over Indian airspace and is implementing satellite-based navigational aids. Can you give the highlights of the programme? When will the GAGAN project be completed?

The AAI has been entrusted with the responsibility of providing CNS/ATM services that extend beyond the territorial limits of the country. The AAI has been modernising its CNS/ATM services on a continuous basis. We will be gradually shifting from ground-based CNS to satellite-based CNS. The development of GPS-aided Geo Augmented Navigation System [GAGAN] is part of this plan.

The AAI has planned an outlay of more than Rs.1,700 crore for CNS/ATM during the Eleventh Plan period. For the year 2008-09, it is about Rs.380 crore, which is more than five times the outlay for 2006-07.

The road map to develop CNS/ATM infrastructure has been drawn up. This includes implementation of GAGAN, which is being jointly developed by the AAI and the Indian Space Research Organisation. The technology demonstration has been successful. Once fully developed, the overall capability of the GAGAN system includes the equatorial ionosphere spatial and temporal variability.

GAGAN will be capable of meeting the International Civil Aviation Organisations GNSS [Global Navigation Satellite System] SARPs [Standards and Recommended Practices] and it is scheduled to be in operation by 2011-12. Other initiatives include integration of 11 Area Control Centres into four or two main enroute control centres, networking of radars, networking of VHF [very high frequency] and HF, establishment of integrated ATS [air traffic service] automation system, and Advanced Surface Movement Guidance & Control System (ASMGCS).

As part of the Performance-based Navigation (PBN) programme of the AAI, RNAV [area navigation] and RNAV Procedures (RNP) are being implemented from August 28, 2008, at Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad airports.

Have you made plans for opening up civil enclaves and airstrips as well? Have you got queries for opening up airstrips for private use?

This is a very good question. With the surge in civil aviation activities in the country, we have been getting queries for operationalisation of non-operational airports not only for scheduled operation, but for activities such as flying clubs, MROs [maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities] and freight operations. The AAI recently appointed a reputed consultant for undertaking feasibility study for operationalisation of 32 non-operational AAI airports. Further, AAI is in the process of appointing a consultancy agency for carrying out a study on 326 non-AAI and non-operational airports belonging to State governments, defence and private airports/airstrips in the country.

In many airports passenger amenities such as parking, shopping, ample security-hold area and approach roads are still falling short of expectations. What steps are you taking to improve these facilities?

Since the surge in demand, the AAI has started enhancing aircraft parking capacity at most of its airports. Broadly, about 200 parking stands are getting ready at various airports in the country. As regards shopping and ample security-hold area, you will be glad to know that we have enhanced per passenger area norms at our upcoming airports.

As regards approach roads leading to airports, particularly in Kolkata and Chennai, we are in constant dialogue with the State governments concerned. The AAI has taken measures to provide multiple lane roads and also train and metro connectivity.

How far have you gone with modernising cargo operations? Have you increased capacity in major airports?

We have been improving our cargo-handling capabilities on a continuous basis. Recently at the Kolkata airport, we provided a full-fledged, modern cargo handling facility equipped with ASRS [Automatic Storage Retrieval System]. Similarly, ASRS is also included at the upcoming new terminal building in Chennai. This facility includes storage and retrieval of full containers.

Further, we have introduced EDI [electronic date interchange] at all the metro airports. As for increasing capacity at major airports, we already have surplus capacity in Kolkata, and after completion of Phase-III work in Chennai [in about a year and half], we will have surplus capacity there too.

Are AAI employees in Delhi and Mumbai satisfied with the package given to them?

Those employees who have not accepted the offer will continue to be employees of AAI and will be taken care of as AAI employees.