Poor communication delays 25 helicopter flights every day

The lack of harmony between the two traffic control towers at Juhu and CSIA and a lengthy process of clearance is holding up many flights bound for cities like Pune, Nashik and Ratnagiri

The lack of coordination between the two Air Traffic Control (ATC) towers in Mumbai has been resulting in inordinate delays of as many as 25 helicopters movements every day at the Juhu aerodrome. Sources revealed that some of the helicopter operations are cancelled on a regular basis, directly affecting the large clientele.

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On an average, the Juhu aerodrome operates 100 helicopter movements every day. Of these, 70-75 are offshore movements for Bombay High and the city area - all of which are subject to clearance only by the Juhu ATC.

However, the remaining 25 movements, which are for cities like Pune, Nashik, Ratnagiri and others, need clearance by the ATC tower at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA). It is these that have to wait till a lengthy process of clearance is completed, before they can take off. "For offshore movements, we do not have to suffer, as the go-ahead is granted by the Juhu ATC itself. But to fly to destinations like Pune, Nashik and Ratnagiri, we have to wait for long intervals, before we get the clearance from the ATC tower at CSIA. We have a large corporate clientele who use our services to fly to destinations different cities within the state. For these movements, we have to first inform the Juhu ATC, which in turn informs the CSIA ATC, which then calls the Mumbai approach. Then the feedback is transmitted back to us, through the same lengthy channel. This protracted procedure inevitably delay the operations, to the great inconvenience of our clientele," said a pilot, on condition of anonymity.

"This prolonged process can be simplified, and the operations can easily be coordinated between Juhu and Sahar ATC, leaving the Mumbai Approach out of the equation.  I would attribute this delay to the negligent behavior of the Sahar ATC towards helicopter operations. It is also due to the lack of coordination between the two towers," added the pilot.

A delegation of chopper operators and members of pilot bodies even conducted a meeting with the Sahar ATC officials last Sunday, where the problems stemming from the lack of coordination were discussed. "We held a discussion with the ATC officials on this issue, and they admitted that there is a lack of coordination. They also agreed that in future, these operations would be cleared without the involvement of the Mumbai approach, to avoid any delay," said an official from a helicopter company who participated in the meeting.

When contacted, G Dasgupta, general manager, ATC, CSIA, agreed that delays were being caused by the lack of coordination. "We had many meetings on the issue. The matter is expected to be resolved by February 15," Dasgupta told MiD DAY.

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