IGI Airport’s fourth runway will be operational by the early next year. Airports Authority of India chairman Sanjeev Kumar said that instrument landing system installation and other work like painting runway markings and calibration will be completed by this December. “The fourth runway should get operational by early 2023,” he said.
IGIA will be the only Indian airport to have four runways. Delhi International Airport Ltd recently got a capacity study conducted by the UK-based air traffic management firm, NATS, that showed its four runways can fly in and out as many as 14 crore passengers annually — more than double of the 6. 9 crore international-cum-domestic (both arrival and departure) numbers in the last pre-pandemic year of 2019.
However, reaching the 14-crore figure will require air traffic management techniques to safely handle more planes by reducing their separation and many other technical methods.
While many airports are getting privatised, the state-owned AAI provides air navigation services at all airports and manages traffic in the Indian airspace. With an increase in air traffic and new airports across the country, there is a shortage of air traffic controllers. “Given the kind of traffic IGIA — India’s busiest airport — handles, we need experienced ATCOs. We are seeing many of them getting transferred to other places from Delhi and that could have its impact on operations here,” said senior ATCOs.
Kumar said there were concrete plans to have more ATCOs and upgrade the air traffic control systems across India. “We have drawn up a 10-year plan to increase ATC capacity by replacing old equipment and upgrading them across India. As of now, AAI spends Rs 600-700 crore annually on air navigation systems. This will be upped to Rs 1,000 crore,” he said.
Kumar said AAI had issued an ad to recruit 400 ATCOs this year, and 300 who joined last year would be in the system in 2022 after completing the training. An additional 320 will be hired in 2023. “Cumulatively, about 1,000 ATCOs would have come onboard in three years. We have also sent a proposal to create posts for 452 more to the aviation ministry. Our focus is on increasing ATCOs and modernising systems to handle more flights safely,” he said.
Post-Omicron, the air traffic between non-metro and non-metros/metros has picked up better than the traffic between metros, said Kumar. “We have seen very strong recovery in places like Jammu, Leh and Srinagar. ”