Air traffic control officers (ATCO)s at Kolkata airport from this month-end will be in charge of 1.7 lakh sq km of Varanasi upper airspace 24×7 that will help flights to Delhi from Kolkata and elsewhere in the east, Northeast and even beyond secure direct routing or straight flight path to the capital.
Direct routing will mean efficient flight paths and hence, less travel time, which in turn, will result in fuel saving and contribute to making the sky a little greener.
Moreover, it will also make the sky safer by eliminating the possibility of conflicting flight paths. “From March 31, this vast airspace will be controlled by ATCOs seated on the third floor of the air traffic services building. This will make coordination during an emergency situation, be it an aircraft issue or a weather system, a lot easier,” an airport official told TOI.
With direct routing, pilots don’t need to change frequency. This means less coordination load on both pilots and controllers. It also enables controllers to enhance capacity by packing in more flights as the entire sky is under radar coverage. Controllers said the move would eliminate the possibility of conflicting flight paths due to coordination issues. “There was a lot of coordination involved in handing over so many flights to Varanasi ATC, one of the busiest routes in the country, and receiving as many fights from the latter,” said an ATC official.
Covering the entire upper airspace (flight paths situated at altitudes beyond 25,000 ft) between Khajurao and Lucknow to the west and Dibrugarh and Agartala in the east, Kolkata air traffic region will also have the largest continental airspace at 14.7 lakh sq km, superseding Chennai that has control over 14.3 lakh sq km. But in terms of total coverage, Chennai will remain the largest with 47 lakh sq km in continental and oceanic airspace. The total airspace under Kolkata will be 18.5 lakh sq km.
“Once Varanasi upper sky is completely integrated by this month-end, area controllers in Kolkata will manage 250-300 overflights that travel through Varanasi’s upper airspace. Following the increase in jurisdiction of Kolkata air traffic region (ATR), controllers here will manage traffic on 15 international routes, 37 crossings and 10 converging points, making it one of the most challenging ATRs in the country,” said an official.”All jet planes in the Kolkata air traffic region will now be controlled from Kolkata. Only the aircraft that fly below 25,000 ft, including ATR and other turbo-prop aircraft or small planes and narrow-body planes that land or take off within this region, will be controlled by local ATCs,” said an airport official.
Seven continental and one oceanic airspace are in the Kolkata Flight Information Region (FIR). The last upper airspace was integrated in January 2021. Trial runs for the Varanasi upper airspace integration have been going on since October 2021. The integration of these two regions had been delayed due to technical and administrative issues.