India's highest ATC tower turns out to be a tall order

Sep 12, 2012, 07:31 IST | Bipin Kumar Singh

It has missed the deadline and sources at Mumbai international airport say a dispute between MIAL and ATC has seemingly made sure the next cut-off date won't be met either

Several emergency landings, go-arounds and near misses in the recent past at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) have forced operator Mumbai international Airport Limited (MIAL) to raise its game. But the upcoming 84-metre Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower here – India’s tallest – has already missed a deadline. And current circumstances suggest there’s going to be a further delay. The bone of contention is MIAL’s insistence on installation of CCTV cameras inside the building, which ATC is opposed to.

Sources said MIAL is not happy with ATC, as information pertaining to recent goof-ups by controllers was not shared with it on priority.

“During a recent meeting of MIAL and ATC officials, the matter regarding setting up of CCTV system came up. ATC representatives rejected the idea outright, stating that no such system of monitoring by aerodrome authority exists anywhere in India. Apart from this there are a few other issues that are likely to delay operationalisation of the tower,” a top airport source told this newspaper.

Agree to disagree
Top officials from Airports Authority of India (AAI) told MiD DAY that no such proposal has been formally introduced, and they’ll oppose any such move. “We cannot allow the monitoring of our controllers. MIAL is free to install cameras in the security area of the new tower to scrutinise entry and exit, as was the case with the old tower,” said an AAI official.

“The orientation would completely change at the new tower as controllers are not exposed to operating in such an environment. The controllers will have to undergo an essential training of six months to take on operations at the new tower. Because the entire machinery would be shifted, a proper safety assessment would have to be conducted.

Windowpanes are not in place. Wiring is an integral part of ATC operations and that is yet to be concluded,” an AAI source revealed, pointing out the other reasons for the hold-up. “All these above processes are time-consuming and even if everything is fast-tracked, completion before August 2013 looks impossible,” the source added.

When contacted, the MIAL spokesperson refused to confirm any such developments pertaining to the upcoming tower.

Deadline facts
July 2012: Missed
December 2012: Likely to be missed

About the tower
Located a few metres away from Western Express Highway, this new ATC tower will be the only one located beyond airside premises — in the forecourt area of the domestic terminal.


Hong Kong-based global architectural firm HOK, which has designed the new tower, has shaped it in a manner that would enable it to be visible from a distance. More so, it would also be the first sighting for travellers coming into CSIA. 

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