ACTING AS ‘eyes’ of the control centre at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) in Mumbai, a surface surveillance software is providing real time data on position of aircraft and terminal area movements on the twin runways at the airport. Commissioned in March, the Surface Awareness and Guidance at Airport or SAGA developed by France-based ALTYS Technologies has helped improve reaction time to any emergency at the airport, MIAL officials claim.
With a staff of at least 35 people, the control centre of the airport includes MIAL officials who track movement of airlines, their customer care team and representatives from airlines and their ground handling agencies. Placed right at the centre of the control desk, a giant screen using SAGA, a data fusion and analytic system displays real time movement of aircraft, their entry into the taxiway and movement of every vehicle on the runway surface.
“Each vehicle including aircraft, wildlife surface vans, fire vans and follow-me jeeps fitted with a transponder (tracker) is displayed on the screen. The movement is tracked through the five antennas fitted around the corners. The control centre gets real time updates of departure and arrival. We can clearly see the number of airplanes lining up for departure and also understand their runway occupancy time. It acts as our eyes on the ground situation at the airport,” a senior control team official said.
Mumbai airport, through a single operational runway, handles up to 960 flight movements every day. According to officials, such a software is useful to react faster in case of emergencies.
“Earlier, airlines would inquire about the position of their aircraft, demanding reasons for the delay while getting airborne. This time-taking process has now become easier as the airline staff, who work in tandem, get to check the screen and plan their schedule accordingly. Such queries have reduced by almost 80 per cent on a daily basis,” the official added.
Among the other advantages of SAGA, speed of the aircraft, how it taxiied, its vacation time from the runway or taxiway and the On-Time Performance or OTP of the aircraft also gets recorded. As the software stores data for more than up to a year, officials claim it helps them re-run the details to analyse mistakes. “With SAGA in place, we do not need to approach Air Traffic Control (ATC) to help us with specific details of the aircraft movement. We re-run the details to understand what caused OTP delay, why the aircraft was holding up in an area for longer. The software also helps us challenge claims made by airlines if they blame airport infrastructure for delays. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) can also use the data to verify details during accidents or any other incidents,” the official added.
While SAGA was installed in August last year, officials state the software was fully operational by March this year. “During monsoon last year, we were unable to see the visuals clearly on the screen. While the same has been corrected, we expect it to guide us better during rains this year. The software clearly benefits us during night time as we can react better in case of emergencies and send the follow me vans accordingly,” the official added.
MIAL has asked for software updates to analyse repeated reasons of aircraft delay. CSIA is the only airport worldwide to use the software for mapping airport operations.