Flight Plan

‘Seconds count’

Updated on: Nov 01, 2016
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Says Niall Greenwood on managing air traffic. He is the Managing Director, Asia Pacific, NATS, a leading provider of air traffic control services globally. In a move that will also benefit Mumbai airport, the UK-based NATS has been chosen to improve airspace over Chennai and Delhi. As Mumbai airport grapples with increasing air traffic issues, Greenwood outlines how the problem can be tackled at the existing Mumbai airport. The interview was conducted before the Government’s decision was made public. Excerpts:

Is there any airport like Mumbai which NATS has taken up and managed to enhance the Air Traffic Management (ATM)? (ATM refers to have many aircraft an airport handles every hour).

We have done it in numerous airports not only in the UK and Spain but also in Asia Pacific.

Can you give an example from Asia Pacific?

At the moment we are working in Sukonoharta in Djakarta where we are improving the ATM from 72 to 86.

On a single runway?

No it is a dual runway at the moment.

But have you done it in a single runway like Mumbai where the ATM is said to be

at a global average?

I would say that the classic example is Gatwick which runs at over 60 in a very complex airspace with a single runway. It is the world’s busiest single runway. Planes almost look like they are going to touch each other when they come in from one end and fly out from another end. The operations there are so optimised that it does hold the world record for movements in a day which happens during the busy holiday period in the UK.

Seconds count. The changes we are making now are making differences of seconds in the operations and that is the level which you can get to on one runway. It is not always the case of building infrastructure, it is sweating the assets that you have currently got which is particularly relevant for investors delaying the capex investment. This is relevant to the India scenario, and then bringing on the infrastructure enhancement at the optimal time.

Mumbai is said to be doing all it can to enhance ATM. How do you see NATS

coming in and helping in Mumbai?

I think that is entirely achievable. There are a series of measures that can be made to bring about those benefits. As the numbers get higher its does not necessarily become easier it gets harder. Rather than being a limitation you have to get more capacity on to the assets that you have got. For example when Navi Mumbai comes online how do you de conflict the airspace between the two airports so that you have both running at optimal capacity. There are a number of measures that you can take that can enhance in a number of different ways. Typically in the Indian context we know that more investments will improve infrastructure, free up more capacity, provide more schedules and slots but we also know that all of the investment is not there.

Are you in touch with any Indian airports?

We are particularly talking with the airports at the moment.

The airports owned by the Government or the private sector airports?

The private ones and the ones that are going to go private. Because when you look at it investors have bought the asset with a particular goal -- a return on investment -- in mind and outside of the financial calculations there is also an operational change that delivers that capacity and that is really where we come in.

Having delivered those changes in the UK-- -and being experts at what gets Gatwick and Heathrow to the highest capacity airports in the world with single and dual runways we know what needs to be done for Navi Mumbai, Delhi, Mumbai and for Hyderabad and Goa when the time comes. That is a very good entry point for us because we can make concrete changes very quickly.

Published on January 15, 2018

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