Civil aviation: Chennai

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Civil aviation: Chennai

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


The 1970s- 2016

ONCE UPON A TIME - When rail lines, not radar, guided pilots, Nov 22 2016 : The Times of India


Thirty years ago [in the mid-1980s], flying out of the Chennai airport, which had limited passenger amenities might not have been as pleasant an ex perience for travellers as it is today, but the pilots enjoyed it. With hardly a few flights landing and taking off, pilots had the skies to themselves. But a growing economy spurred the demand for flights and crowded the skies.

Today [in 2016], more than 30 flights dot the Chennai airspace at any given point of time. There are several aircraft flying at 36,000 feet oblivious to the traffic underneath. A look at flight tracking websites shows how crowded the airspace has become. India stands fifth in terms of the busiest airspace, after the US, Europe West Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Senior pilots who flew in the 1970s and 80s say planes flew farther from one another then. Aircraft flew lower than they do now as most pilots depended on their eyesight. Also, flights homed in on signals from radio equipment located on the ground to stick to air routes.Pilots sometimes looked for railway lines and rivers as reference points. “There were hardly any flights when I started in the 70s. The sky was light and we hardly came across other planes en route. As radar coverage was less, planes approaching an airport were separated at a distance of 15 miles. In the 80s also we considered it lucky if we come across 10 flights on the busiest Mumbai-Delhi route,“ said former pilot Captain Ranganathan.

Flight density picked up in early 2000 when private carriers stepped in. Air routes have now become like busy mul ti-tier highways with aircraft flying at different altitudes, spaced at 2,000 feet vertically and laterally. In a highly au tomated scenario, a pilot merely man ages an aircraft these days, overriding the onboard computer occasionally when needed. This has helped accom modate more planes in the sky.

“I feel the density of flights on air during RT (radio telephony). The mo ment one pilot completes a conversa tion, another will call in with his flight number,“ a pilot with a private airline said. “We have to be on high alert and cannot miss a communication from the air traffic control. It is easy to miss but if two RTs are missed, the controller will file a report. The checks that we run have also gone up,“ he said. The pilot said a minor deviation from the route, especially over the ocean due to weath er turbulence, will affect other flights and will cause a slow down.

See also

Civil Aviation, India/ 1

Civil Aviation, India/ 2: ministry data

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