DW BUREAU / Chandigarh
The full-fledged operation of the Chandigarh International airport appears to have hit an ‘air pocket’, thanks to the internal administrative and technical wrangling between the Air Force authorities under the Ministry of Defence and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) under the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Sources said while the Air Force authorities had been insisting that Instrument Landing System (ILS)-2 system was enough to handle the air traffic at the Chandigarh airport, the AAI had been pressing the need for ILS-3 system so as the attract the international air carriers who regard the advanced system as a pre-requisite while deciding on an airport for direct landing destination. Following a series of meetings and the intervention by top Punjab government authorities, the Defence Ministry has in principle agreed to allow the AAI to install the advanced ILS-3 system. The advanced landing system, which is expected to cost about Rs 80 to Rs 100 crore, will enable aircrafts to land under 50-metre visibility.
A meeting in this regard has been fixed for next week at the Air Force Headquarters to resolve the issue and allow the AAI to install the advanced landing system, the sources added. The Chandigarh airport which was formally launched as an international airport by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 11, 2015, is essentially a Defence airport and continues to operate on a practically outdated ILS-2 system. Sources said the Air Force authorities had been insisting that the existing ILS-2 system was sufficient to handle air traffic at the Chandigarh airport since the area does have too much fog and visibility issues.
Under the existing system, an aircraft requires a minimum visibility of 350 metres to land safely at the airport that leads to huge and unpredictable delays, especially during the winter months. While a few direct international flights to Dubai as well as some other countries have commenced, a full-fledged ILS-3 system is essential for most of the International airlines to operate their direct flights from Chandigarh.
Air Force authorities, sources said, were reluctant to upgrade the existing landing system arguing that Chandigarh did not have much problem because of fog during winters. However, poor visibility in January delayed the landing of none other than Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa at Chandigarh, which subsequently led to the Air Force authorities agreeing in principle for the upgradation.
Sources said the question of integration of ILS3 with the already existing ILS2 system still continues to be a major stumbling block. The Air Force authorities have maintained that in case, the AAI is allowed to install the ILS3 system, there would be an issue of integration between the old and the new landing systems.
Sources said that Tejveer Singh, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, who is also the State’s Civil Aviation Secretary, has been proactively pursuing the matter with all ministries to facilitate smooth resolution of the vexed issue.
Tejveer Singh, when contacted, said: “We are seized of the matter and a meeting has been arranged next week wherein all the technical and administrative issues would be resolved.” The CAT-3 ILS system guarantees a higher level of satisfaction for international air carriers and we are sure that all the outstanding issues would be sorted out soon to install the advanced landing system at the airport, he added.