In a sit-down interview, AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra talks about airport development plans, its financial plans as well as the use of state-of-the-art technology to upgrade air traffic management. Excerpts:
How does AAI plan to embark on airport development in the coming years?
We have appointed a consultancy firm to prepare a national strategy for airport development, which will submit its report to the Ministry of Civil Aviation within 18 months. It will prepare a plan to cater to growth in traffic demand in the next 30 years.
Almost every State capital will get a second airport at some point in time as per its traffic growth. Tamil Nadu will suggest sites, Dholera in Gujarat is being considered as a second airport for Ahmedabad. Similarly, we are pursuing with the State governments for a second airport for Bhubaneshwar and Kolkata. The criterion is to have a second airport within 30-40 kilometres of the existing airport.
How much does AAI need for capital expenditure?
We need ₹20,000 crore in the next five years. Sixty per cent of this amount will be borrowed. We have already approved ₹1,500 crore from a consortium of banks led by SBI as a term loan for a period of 15 years. Our board has also drawn up a borrowing plan for the next three years but we need to decide whether we will invest in masala bonds, dollar-denominated bonds or rupee bonds.
What is AAI doing to manage air traffic flow across the country given the sharp growth in domestic traffic?
Last year in April, we became only the seventh country to adopt a state-of-the-art Central-Air Traffic Flow Management (C-ATFM) [system]. We bought this technology for ₹107 crore and it is being rolled out in phases. We started with six metro airports in phase one and in January expanded it to 36 more airports. In the third phase, we will look at trans-border ATFM. Sophisticated computers are used by [the system] to calculate exactly where an aircraft will be at any given moment and to predict when the demand for airspace or an airport is exceeding declared capacity and provide predictability for flight operations.
When will remote ATC towers for smaller RCS airports become a reality?
Remote ATC towers entail managing traffic from a different location and for this to become a success we need Futuristic Telecom Infrastructure (FTI) which will ensure reliability of service in the range of 99.9% to 99.999%. To achieve this, we have recently awarded a contract to a global company at a cost of ₹945 crore. The FTI is expected to be ready in 18 months. It will be a reliable air traffic management network while much of the present telecommunications network is composed of dedicated point-to-point circuits run by state-owned BSNL and a few other providers with no commitment to availability and reliability of circuits.
AAI has sought amendment of the AAI Act for monetisation of land assets but why is it still stuck? Are there any targets?
A draft Cabinet note was sent by the Ministry of Civil Aviation but it was returned and comments have been sought. Our limited concern was to remove the restriction on land usage.
There are no targets as these are very complex procedures. However, we are trying to frame land regulations, which will lay down policies for deciding land rates for various activities such as flying training schools, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities, hotels, etc. Once these are ready we will not have to go to the government to seek an approval for awarding contracts.
We will also be preparing tendering principles for monetisation of land.