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Millennium Post

Marvels of architecture and human innovation

Recently, when I went on successive visits to Chennai and Kolkata, I was simply awestruck by the grandeur, architectural beauty and engineering magnificence of the international airports there. They are, indeed, a living testimony to the unlimited potential of man’s scientific and technological prowess.

These two amazing creations of the rising economic power India also instantly reminded me of a profound but much-maligned truth – that great things are the product of man’s quest for knowledge and passion for creation. They are the offsprings of his fundamental spirit and imagination.

Contrary to the much flaunted theory that is constantly sold in today’s India, great creations are not the product of greed and the desire for self-gain. Had that been the case, the airports at Kolkata and Chennai and the scores of other achievements of the public sector Airports Authority of India (AAI) would not have been possible.

The scientists, engineers, managers and hundreds of employees of AAI, led by the dynamic leadership of Chairman V P Agrawal, who made possible such huge leaps in India’s aviation infrastructure, were not motivated by self-gain. On the contrary, they were motivated by a burning sense of ambition – the ambition to achieve new world-class engineering feats that would revolutionise the very concept of travel in this huge nation.

It is these economic warriors of 21st century India who have proved that the public sector – and only the public sector – can build world-class structures and lead the country’s march to the forefront of the comity of nations. The private sector – which proudly flaunts the fact that it is motivated only by the profit and by a cocktail of greed, selfishness and raw lust – can play a secondary, subordinate role. For the country to progress and flourish, it is public sector enterprises (PSEs) like AAI that must accept the mantle of captaining the national economy. AAI has been responsible for building airport infrastructure across the length and breadth of our country ever since its inception on 1 April 1995. Today it manages 125 airports including 19 International airports (three civil enclaves), seven custom airports (four civil enclaves), 80 domestic airports and 19 other civil enclaves.

The Authority also provides CNS-ATM facilities at all civil airports in the country and is solely responsible for managing the whole of Indian airspace, which measures 2.8 million nautical square miles covering the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, the area as designated by ICAO for provisioning of Air Traffic Services.

President Pranab Mukherjee, who inaugurated the world-class state-of-the- art Kolkata international airport terminal and Vice-President Hamid Ansari, who launched the equally magnificent Chennai international airport, have paid glowing tributes to the ‘plethora of expertise of AAI’. They have put on record their appreciation by pointing out, ‘AAI has proved beyond doubt that the public sector can create world class infrastructure at par with, even better than the private sector.’

Commenting on the challenges ahead, Chairman V P Agrawal recently pointed out out, ‘Managing of airports entails significant groundwork in terms of having adequate and proper ground support, safety systems and infrastructure in place, so as to ensure safe operation of aircrafts.’

‘Due to the ever-changing technology and also as a result of new, larger air-borne platforms invading the skies, AAI as an airport operator perforce has to keep abreast of the changing scenario which undoubtedly demands constant monitoring, review of the facilities and systems available on its inventory,’ he added. ‘Therefore, a good amount of investment has to be incurred by AAI in acquiring world-class specialised equipment and vehicles required for maintaining high safety standards, the AAI Chairman observed.

With respect to CNS-ATM, considering the then trends, growth forecasts and to meet the future challenges in an efficient manner, AAI had taken the initiative and drawn up the Master Plan for implementation of the Future Air Navigation (FANS) System, which included shift from voice communication to digital data communication, from ground based navigation to satellite based navigation, ie GAGAN – Indian SBAS, modern radar coverage with ADS-B, multilateration etc.

The implementation of the CNS-ATM Master Plan has put India amongst the elite group of countries having an efficient ATM System supported by a strong and robust CNS infrastructure consisting of digital data unit, integrated ATM automation network, and System Wide Information Management (SWIM) and Separation Management System.

The master plan is being implemented in three phases. The short term has been put in place in the first two-three years. The medium-term activities are planned to be completed during the period 2012-15 and the long-term objectives will be achieved through emerging new technology, based on R&D in the industry as an ongoing process. The aim is to provide a safe, efficient, cost-effective and environment-friendly ATM services, applying a gate-to-gate approach, and to achieve a ‘collaborative and coordinated global approach’ to ensure harmonisation and adoptions of the technological solutions that would be cost-effective and uniform, ultimately to be part of the future global ATM system.

In addition to the ground-based airport infrastructure, it has been doubly ensured that we are not found wanting in modernising our CNS–ATM facilities. Accordingly, AAI has taken many a stride in that direction too, wherein; they have successfully executed the plans narrated above. The US Federal Aviation Administration has rated AAI on the air traffic parameter & they are confident to exceed that in 2013, especially with GPS-aided geo-augmented navigation (GAGAN) getting operational, they are bound to achieve bigger footprint.

It would but be apt if it were to be stated with confidence that the infrastructure facilities at Indian Airports are looking upwards. As on date, there are no real dire areas which demand immediate attention for the simple reason that all critical areas have been well taken care of in the plans which have been executed meticulously under the modernisation scheme.

With the above in the background, now they can afford to concentrate on the development of airports in Tier-3 cities. Thus, AAI will bring Indians from such far-flung places to the mainstream, so that they too can reap the benefits of the development and become part of the extraordinary India growth story.
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