Mumbai Air Traffic Control (ATC) officials have written to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for an emergency meeting after the Yemen conflict resulted in 60 new flights coming within its airspace daily.
The Mumbai ATC, on an average, handles 800 flight movements in a day, and with this additional burden, are facing “problems”, said senior ATC officials. Despite the burden, however, Mumbai ATC, on May 14, coordinated 851 flight movements in a day, creating a new record at the country’s second busiest airport.
Mumbai now has to handle additional flights, mostly during a single hour every night, after strife-hit Yemen shut its airspace in March, according to Jayant Dasgupta, general manager, Mumbai ATC.
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“Earlier, flights from Europe to South Africa and Tanzania would go over Yemeni airspace, but now bypasses it and comes into Mumbai ATC-controlled airspace over the Arabian sea. Moreover, Kenya-China flights have increased and these flights also seek our assistance. Most of these flights come together within an hour at night, adding to the burden on ATC officials,” said Dasgupta.
Further, since the conflict, ICAO has set up an ATC at Nairobi to control Somali airspace, which was earlier controlled by an ATC in its capital city of Mogadishu. “Since it is not a full-fledged facility, flights going over Somali airspace also seek our assistance. We have written to ICAO and asked them to look into the matter as we are short-staffed to handle such additional burden,” Dasgupta added.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Mumbai ATC handled 777 scheduled flights, 50 private jet operations and 24 cargo flights in a day, the highest ever.
So far, the highest flight movement recorded was 810 in a day, end of last year.
“We conducted special training for ATC officials and pilots to reduce the runway occupancy time and efficiently use the six rapid exit taxiways. Previously, while the Mumbai airport handled 42 flight movements an hour, it has now declared 45 flight movements per hour.
On occasions, ATC has also successfully overseen up to 51 flight movements in an hour,” said the MIAL spokesperson. ATC officials said that flight movements per hour will further increase at the airport with the use of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM), which is being tried out at the airport since a month. A-CDM involves feeding data-flight plans, the runway in use and parking bays to be allotted to a particular incoming flight, into a software program. The system provides real-time aircraft turnaround and pre-departure sequencing process to all the stakeholders.