A day after the new Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower at city airport was commissioned, many afternoon flights were delayed, with more time taken for pushback said to be the reason. In aviation parlance, pushback means the procedure of pushing the aircraft backward with the help of an external power. It helps in facilitating ground movement on taxiways.
Though the reason for delayed pushback could not be immediately confirmed, airport authorities said two of the several reasons could be adjusting to the new ATC system or repair work at the runway. However, J Dasgupta, general manager, ATC, claimed ignorance about the issue.
A tweet from IndiGo airline, whose flight was among those affected, said the flight delays happened due to ATC congestion because of ongoing maintenance work at the airport.
However, a Mumbai International Airport Limited source claimed the delays were mainly due to delay in pushback.
On January 1, the new ATC tower, which is the tallest in the country and arguably among the most technologically advanced in Asia, was opened for operation. It has been built at a cost of more than Rs110 crore, apart from Rs35 crore of state-of-the-art equipment. With the new ATC tower in place and completion of the rapid taxiway by May this year, the peak hour traffic capacity is set to increase to 50 movements an hour from the present 42.
In another important development, the Airport Authority of India (AAI), which maintains and operates air traffic control across the country, has asked airlines not to say “ATC congestion” in their communication with public during delays and, instead, cite “traffic congestion” as the reason for delays as the former sends a wrong message to the public.
“ATC congestion and traffic congestion are two different things. Airlines should be careful in passing on the information correctly, or else it is perceived wrongly by the general public,” a senior AAI official.