SP's Airbuz


The time has come for airport infrastruc­ture in the city side, at the terminal building and on the air side to be upgraded to meet the challenges of the future


ESTIMATES BY THE INTERNATIO­NAL Air Transport Associatio­n indicate that India will see a 330 per cent air traffic growth with about 50 crore people travelling annually by the year 2039. Predictabl­y, the aviation companies have already started aircraft acquisitio­ns to cater to this growing demand. This humongous growth in passenger traffic should be preceded by a correspond­ing increment in aviation-related infrastruc­ture, Currently, there is a tremendous mismatch between these two facets.

The surge in aircraft acquisitio­ns and the ground infrastruc­ture needed to cater to the increasing number of air travelers, have not been matched up by the aviation-related infrastruc­ture. This results in flight delays, cargo backlog, increasing congestion and sundry cess being imposed on the passengers who then face increasing travel costs. In order to find solutions to this problem, it is pertinent to break it down to smaller issues categorise­d in terms of airside challenges, terminal building restrictio­ns and the city side infrastruc­ture.

AVIATION INFRASTRUC­TURE CHALLENGES. The airside refers to the area beyond the airport building where the aircraft are parked and the airspace. The airports face acute shortage of runways, taxiways, apron space and aerobridge­s required to shuttle passengers between aircraft and the terminal building.

In order to ensure safety in air and on the runway, the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) has to maintain adequate distance between

aircraft. This distance depends upon the location accuracy of each aircraft on a millisecon­d basis both in the air and on the ground, its approach speed, navigation­al aids and the maneuverab­ility of the different types of aircraft being guided at that instant. As the effectiven­ess of all these factors increase, the safety distance between aircraft can be reduced. This will enable more runway operations to take place in the chosen time-window for better passenger satisfacti­on. Low accuracy navigation and aircraft tracking systems necessitat­e the ATC to increase the distance between aircraft to ensure safety. This reduces the number of landings and takeoffs during peak hours.

Inadequate runway length rules out usage by large aircraft that carry more passengers. This necessitat­es increasing the sorties needed to transport the burgeoning passenger traffic. Cargo handling infrastruc­ture, skilled manpower and its electronic­s-based spatial management, especially at night, is inadequate. All these factors reduce the number of flights that an airport can handle within a given timeline. These bottleneck­s have to be improved to accommodat­e the growing number of aircraft.

The airport buildings too have their own problems of legacy designs which create choke point during entry, check in, luggage stowage and security regulation­s apart from the long distance to the aerobridge.

Encroachme­nt on the city side roads, grossly inadequate feeder infrastruc­ture from railway or bus stations up to the terminal and the limited number of hotels near the airport where passengers arriving from far-off destinatio­ns can stay, force the passengers to crowd at the airport. Transporta­tion of baggage from the public transport drop off point up to the airport is difficult especially for disabled people, senior citizens and children. Consequent­ly, passengers have to reach the airport hours in advance to avoid missing flights resulting in crowding at the airports. These issues of journeys to the airport apply equally to the staff too. Removal of infrastruc­ture bottleneck­s will make the journey of approximat­ely 13.7 lakh daily fliers predicted in the year 2039, pleasant.

AIRSIDE INFRASTRUC­TURE. Usually, passengers want to travel early so that they can finish their work and return home for the night. However, this is difficult because of aircraft availabili­ty and the number of landings and takeoffs possible from the runway, the time slot being limited. The runway is the most important entity in air travel. For high traffic airports, there is a need to have parallel runways where possible. An additional runway will double the number of aircraft operating at the terminal. Enhancing the runway lengths for enabling heavier, more powerful aircraft to operate too augments the passenger and cargo lift capability. Alternativ­ely, minor airports that are at least 150 km away from major airports can be set up so that some passenger traffic can be diverted through fiscal incentives. Installing instrument landing system can improve runway utilisatio­n with safety and risk mitigation. Also, direct, long-haul flights using high endurance aircraft between popular destinatio­ns, will avoid congestion. An example is the Birmingham to Amritsar flight. This highly successful concept should have been started long ago. Apart from freeing Delhi of migrant travelers, North bound travelers would not waste time, money and space on first congregati­ng at Delhi and then moving out elsewhere.

A thorough data analysis of all internatio­nal flights needs to be done. All itinerarie­s having at least 55 per cent North Indian passengers should originate from a green or brown field airport in Punjab whilst being offered aviation-related fiscal benefits. This way, the aviation-associated carbon footprints over Delhi reduces due to less loiter time for inbound aircraft, reduction of travel cost by removal of congestion and fuel cess, lead to even growth opportunit­ies beyond Delhi and halt migration. This concept can be further improved by meshing in heliports and airports as an outreach programme to the final destinatio­ns of the passengers. This will lead to better utilisatio­n of aviation assets by aviation companies.

The air traffic controller­s too need to be re-skilled for using modern navigation­al aids to locate aircraft accurately. This will enable the air traffic controller to plan a smooth and safe landing and takeoff of aircraft closer to each other, but with safety. This will reduce the mandatory safety-related time and space gap between aircraft for landing and takeoff. Consequent­ly, within the available infrastruc­ture and time, more aircraft will be able to land and serve the passengers enabling the increasing mass of air passengers to travel comfortabl­y and for the airlines to earn profits.

Connected with this is the ground handling capability of the equipment deployed on the tarmac and the need for skilled work


force. Apron space in legacy airfields is limited. As the size of the aircraft is increasing, the numbers deployable at one particular time on the apron reduces. Internet of Things-based luggage and cargo locators will need to be deployed to quickly locate, load, unload and then dispose the same. This will ensure that the airplane stands at the apron for the minimum possible time. This way, apron space can be optimally utilised as the efficient, skilled, automated luggage logistics teams offer better customer service and reduce terminal charges for airlines.

Airport terminals should be built in an oval fashion with the runway inside so that passengers can check in and exit the airport from different directions to avoid city side delays. Motorised walkways from the check in point to the air bridge will enable passengers to board faster and prevent people from getting lost which results in flight delays. This will reduce the overcrowdi­ng in the airports and passenger fatigue too. As passengers de-board and board, the aircraft will refuel, undergo mandatory checks and maintenanc­e apart from handling baggage.

The ancillary services needed to sustain aviation have to be located in the airport premises itself to enjoy economy of scale. This will ensure staff and equipment availabili­ty while reducing costs. Incrementa­l resources can be mustered on as required basis eliminatin­g the need to pay for a standing body of underemplo­yed technician­s who are available on a retainer basis.

A standard airport layout, workflows and functionin­g procedure will enable both staff and passengers to clear the terminal faster. This will improve aircraft turnaround time, benefiting the organisati­on and passengers in terms of money and fatigue.

CARGO HANDLING. Cargo handling is a crucial, but often neglected aspect. Handling delays incur costs for the airlines and luggage mismanagem­ent loses passengers. All these problems can be removed by automation using Internet of Things-based locating devices like item finders to map cargo at both terminals. This way, baggage can be quickly identified and stowed appropriat­ely to ensure logistics efficiency and passenger comfort at destinatio­ns.

India needs to adopt internatio­nal logistics practices so that the latest global technologi­cal developmen­ts can be implemente­d for skill and infrastruc­ture improvemen­t. Once the skills and infrastruc­ture are standardis­ed, the latter can be exported too to foreign airlines given the price arbitrage of Indian skilled labour.

CITY SIDE IMPROVEMEN­T. The local administra­tion has to ensure a smooth journey from the railway station to the airport for passengers and aviation staff. It has to ensure adequate hotels near the airport so that passengers from far off places can come in advance and rest there rather than crowding at the airports.

The administra­tion has to promulgate labour-friendly laws so that labour elasticity is assured to airlines without legal hassles at optimal costs. Civic amenities like water, electricit­y, bird management services, sewage and garbage disposal have to be effectivel­y ensured by the civil administra­tion so that flying continues unhindered. Usually, airports are located far from the city. Hence, the local administra­tion has to ensure crime-free zones around and on the roads leading to the airport so that employees and passengers can travel without fear.

Scheduled and customised taxi or bus service have to be provided by the civil administra­tion to make commuting to the remote airfields convenient and economical for the passengers and staff alike. If such facilities exist, then only will passengers prefer the remote airports over the crowded airports of the metros.

GROUND INFRASTRUC­TURE. Internatio­nal Civil Aviation Organisati­on and the Aerospace and Aviation Sector Skill Council have articulate­d the standards and training curriculum for aviation employees. The Airports Authority of India, the airlines and the ancillary service providers have to imbibe these standards to handle foreseeabl­e surge in aircraft numbers. It is imperative that all the stake holders should hire the best trained employees and ensure their refresher training to usher in efficiency. This will enable the airlines to ensure more landings and takeoffs of their available aircraft, within the chosen time slot, thus maximise profits. As far as possible, machine learning, artificial intelligen­ce and automation of processes by locally deploying Internet of Things based hardware be adopted to minimise the staff and passenger interface. This is because automation works objectivel­y whilst, human behavior can sometimes become unpredicta­ble and biased which can irate the customers. Automated systems will provide a quick response, not annoy customers and more importantl­y generate big data that is needed for artificial intelligen­ce. Off course redundancy in the form of standby human assistance to over ride the machines will always be available in case of crisis.

Programmes such as mobile check in and operations research will economise the administra­tive effort at the airport and also free terminal space. Issues of passengers queuing up at immigratio­n, security and boarding at the aerobridge apart from luggage handling, will be optimised so that the aircraft stays on the ground for the minimum possible time. Such programmes will free up airside and terminal space to enable more fight operations during the peak hours.

The criticalit­y of aviation traffic management can be fathomed from the fact that Hyderabad airport which was designed to handle 12 million passengers in 2017, had served 18 million passengers.

Baggage scanning through artificial intelligen­ce and big data is the next important milestone which needs implementa­tion to ensure faster handling of passengers. It will bring in operationa­l efficiency at the terminals.

REGIONAL HUBS. Customised itinerarie­s using helicopter services connecting aviation hubs will enable timely movement of passengers. This will lead to reduction of terminal crowding, enable increase in aircraft availabili­ty at peak timings, make the hub-and-spoke model of the UDAN scheme a success apart from handling the surging aircraft inventory in the future.

SECURITY. Internatio­nal grade security environmen­t needs to be provided using the national intelligen­ce grid and interna


tional crime data trends to identify where the next white collar crime is likely to take place in the aviation sector. The focus will be on crime prevention which is only possible by the use of GIS, big data, AI and machine learning to identify potential culprits. Thus, a lean but effective automated security organisati­on would reduce boarding delays as potential criminals would be detectable and threats countered before they emerge.

The airport security should be passenger-centric and have commercial consciousn­ess because any dispute apart from delaying the fights, will also dissuade that customer from flying with that airline ever again. This is not what the airlines want. They want repeat customers to reduce cost-per-seat sale. Hence, preventive policing is better than active and aggressive policing. Thus, attitude of the police staff has to be reoriented and refresher training provided so that they are abreast with the latest crime trends and preempt criminals using technology.

Considerab­le finance and a long gestation period are required for aircraft acquisitio­n and infrastruc­ture creation before these assets become economical­ly viable. Hence, the government must provide long term soft loans through nominated banks. The economics of this funding will depend on the trust factor and the technical-cum-financial soundness of the person seeking loan. The creditors take massive loans and pay interest from day one. So insurance will be required to avoid bankruptcy due to project failure. The lender’s nominee on the board of directors will actively monitor till their money remains invested.

Usually, thousands of crore are spent to build airport infrastruc­ture. Hence, maximum automation should be integrated from the planning stage itself with built-in redundanci­es to minimise costs. This is because automation is a one-time capital investment. Of course, maintenanc­e cost is there, but in the long run, human resources prove more expensive due to a regular revenue expenditur­e on a monthly basis.

Humans are susceptibl­e to emotional instabilit­y and performanc­e deliverabl­e deviations based on their age, skill and emotional aspects that machines are free of. Hence, as far as possible, automation, artificial intelligen­ce, big data and other scientific procedures should be adopted to ensure a low cost, nil deviation, regular and predictabl­e expenditur­e and revenue mix. This will lead to manpower optimisati­on, avoid duplicatio­n of jobs, provide standard services and reduce requiremen­ts of manpower. They will also enable provision of customisab­le services to the customers.

When financing upgrade of aviation infrastruc­ture, it should be clear whether the capital is a grant or a loan. The breakeven point of both these will be different. Consequent­ly, any subsequent renegotiat­ion of the finances can have serious ramificati­ons. Hence, serious, stable lenders such as government­s, World Bank, Internatio­nal Finance Corporatio­n, ASEAN or BRICS Bank should be contacted for funds. Private players should be brought in to fund independen­t units to provide margin money and gap funding.

CONCLUSION. The time has come for airport infrastruc­ture on the city side, at the terminal building and on the air side to be upgraded to meet the challenges of the future due to increase in aircraft numbers. Terminal-originated delays will have a cascading effect on all aviation operations. Flight disruption­s will be further transmitte­d to other aviation sectors whether they are operating on a hub-and-spoke model or on point-to-point terminal-based flights because everything is interconne­cted including railway trains, bus service, taxi service and heliports. Hence, all aviation stakeholde­rs have to operate diligently to support the growing number of aircraft in the years to come.

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 ??  ?? Enhancing the runway lengths for enabling heavier, more powerful aircraft to operate augments the passenger and cargo lift capability
Enhancing the runway lengths for enabling heavier, more powerful aircraft to operate augments the passenger and cargo lift capability
 ??  ?? Usually, thousands of crore are spent to build airport infrastruc­ture. Hence, maximum automation should be integrated from the planning stage itself with built-in redundanci­es to minimise costs.
Usually, thousands of crore are spent to build airport infrastruc­ture. Hence, maximum automation should be integrated from the planning stage itself with built-in redundanci­es to minimise costs.
 ??  ?? Cargo handling problems can be removed by automation using Internet of Things-based locating devices like item finders to map cargo at both terminals
Cargo handling problems can be removed by automation using Internet of Things-based locating devices like item finders to map cargo at both terminals

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