Will the air traffic control (ATC) tower be shifted from the domestic terminal in Santacruz to make way for infrastructure giant GVK’s ambitious project of a massive business district spanning 200 acres — GVK SkyCity — in the vicinity of the international airport? Highly-placed officials say airport operator Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) is mulling over it.
A senior ATC official says GVK sees the 83-m-high tower as an obstruction to its big-ticket project, which will comprise commercial establishments, swanky hotels, malls and theme parks. “GVK-MIAL knows that nothing can come up within a radius of at least 100 m from the ATC tower due to security reasons. But their real estate project has been planned for the cityscape near the airport. If the ATC tower is shifted, then there will be no potential obstruction to their plan.”
Kalina apt location
Another senior official, however, says the ATC has not been apprised of any proposal by the MIAL to shift the tower. He quickly adds that if the tower has to be shifted, Kalina would be an ideal location from an operational point of view. “We can have better air and ground operations from there than from the current southeast location. The Kalina side can give us a view of the entire airport, including parking bays and taxiways, whose visibility is currently poor.”
Another senior official says the airline parking bays were shifted far from the ATC tower some time ago.
The ATC tower was shifted in 2013 to the current location from Andheri to allow better operations.
An official cautions that shifting the ATC tower again would make the MIAL incur crores of rupees. “The current tower was built at a cost of Rs 125 crore. The burden of incurring the huge costs would be passed onto passengers and ticket fares would go up.”
MIAL, however, says it has not sent any proposal to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or the ministry of civil aviation for a new ATC tower at Kalina. It says it has only prepared a contingency proposal for a new ATC tower at Kalina if the traffic at the domestic terminal sees a substantial increase in future.
“The current ATC tower is located close to the Western Express Highway and a metro station will soon come up near the area. So, if due to increase in traffic in future, the operation/access of the ATC tower is affected, then the option of shifting it to Kalina can be considered. There is no plan now of shifting the existing ATC tower,” says a spokesperson.
MIAL, however, denies that any shifting of tower would be prompted by the GVK’s real estate project. Any chance of it being shifted now could be only “because of underpass and taxiway operations,” said a spokesperson.