October 4, 2008

New Facilities at Lohegaon Airport Get a Crucial Push

By Vishwas Kothari

Pune: A top official from the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Delhi, called on the authorities at the Air Force Station (AFS), Lohegaon, here on Wednesday to discuss issues related to the commissioning of new operational facilities at the Pune airport, which is part of the Indian Air Force base.

Getting the newly laid parallel aircraft taxi track operational and facilitating ground infrastructure for the installation of an instrument landing system (ILS) topped the agenda of the visit by V.P. Agrawal, AAI's member (planning), sources at the airport told TOI.

Agrawal, who ranks among the senior-most AAI board members, heads the critical task of planning and development of airport infrastructure across the country.

The taxi track, which cost Rs 17 crore, has been ready for operation but awaits the IAF's clearance. The parallel aircraft taxi track helps reduce the holding time of aircraft in mid-air and also enables quicker and efficient take-offs and landings . For the airliners, this means a reduction in fuel loss.

The AAI has acquired imported CATI level ILS equipment at a cost of Rs 12 crore for the airport. The ILS enables pilots to safely navigate the aircraft for landing in low visibility conditions caused by inclement weather like heavy rain or fog. It is especially helpful during the winter months when instances of flight delays, aborted landings or diversions are more frequent and prove a major cause of inconvenience to air passengers.

The AAI had planned to get the ILS operational in time for the Commonwealth Youth Games 2008, beginning October 12. But this won't be possible now as the IAF is yet to facilitate the ground infrastructure required for the installation of the ILS.

According to sources, the revised deadline for setting up the ILS has been set for January 2009. Agrawal's visit was part of the liaisoning effort with the IAF for getting these facilities to function soon, the sources added.

The Pune airport has witnessed a steady growth in air traffic volumes over the last five years and now handles an average of 5,000 passengers and has an average flight movement (take-offs and landings ) of 60 daily.

Earlier, the AAI board member also held a meeting with the airport officials here to review the ongoing airport expansion and modernisation work. An AAI official pointed out that a part of the upcoming international departures terminal building at the airport is to be commissioned by the start of the CYG. Agrawal inspected the construction site.

What is the ILS

The instrument landing system (ILS) is a type of air navigation that uses lights and radio signals to help flight landing in poor visibility conditions. The ILS CAT-I level equipment is described as fairly suitable for airports with lesser volumes of air traffic as compared to the busier airports like Mumbai and Delhi, which have the advanced ILS versions of CAT III A and B levels.

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