IGI to make switch to 103m-tall air traffic control tower today

Standing at a height of 103 metres, the new ATC tower is said to be the tallest in India.

NEW DELHI: After months of trials, Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport’s new state-of-the-art air traffic control (ATC) tower will be finally inaugurated by Union minister of state for civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday. Located parallel to the old ATC tower, it will help IGI improve its efficiency and operational capacity.

Standing at a height of 103 metres, the new ATC tower is said to be the tallest in India. Worldwide, only eight ATC towers are higher than the one at IGI with Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok being the tallest at 132.2m. In comparison, Qutub Minar stands at a height of 72.5m.



Built at a cost of Rs 350 crore, the new tower has been equipped with the latest technology, giving a significant improvement to the existing air traffic operation and handling capacity. Not only will IGI airport be able to handle more flights, but precision in terms of tracking flights is also expected to improve. Officials said its true output will be known once the fourth runway is ready within the next three years.

The first phase of the switch saw parallel operations commence in June, with officials observing flight movements in the new ATC tower, while control of flights was carried out from the old one. In Phase-II, both towers were functioning in tandem, seamlessly shifting operations to the new tower and improving its capacity of handling flights in a gradual manner. In the third phase, which is currently being carried out, upgraded capabilities of the new tower were observed with final testing taking place.

The commissioning of the new tower is expected to enhance the efficiency of air traffic management (ATM) services and help improve them considerably. After the fourth runway becomes operational, IGI airport would be able to handle over 96 ATMs per hour — an increase from 73-75 at present.

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IGI sees around 1,200 landings and take-offs every day with over 40,000 occurring in a month. The new tower also boasts of several physical features, including quake-resistant technology to withstand an earthquake measuring around 8 on the Richter scale and “tuned mass dampers”, which have been put one level below the top to ensure the tower doesn’t sway in strong winds.

The new tower has additional control positions and equipment worth over Rs 60 crore installed in the control room. Officials said more slots mean a reduction in the number of flights a single controller has to handle, thus improving overall efficiency. Flights can also be divided into additional sectors for easier handling.

AAI officials said that due to the increased height, the tower allows for better visibility to the controllers, improving their decision making. The systems installed in the tower promise to improve safety because they will allow controllers to see if pilots are taking the steps as directed by ATC. For example, if a pilot is asked to climb to a certain level or maintain a certain speed and s/he sets a direction for a different level or at a different speed, air traffic controllers will be able to see it on displays and alert the crew.

The recently announced expansion plans at IGI include a fourth runway, an elevated cross-taxiway and a newly revamped Terminal-1.
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