Challenges and future of air traffic control in Sri Lanka
Air traffic controllers (ATCs) all over the world celebrate the ‘International Air Traffic Controllers Day’ on October 20 every year. This day becomes a red letter day for all air traffic controllers in Sri Lanka, working at the Bandaranaike International Airport and Ratmalana Airport as Sri Lanka celebrates 100 years of aviation in the country.
It is a milestone for all of us in the industry. Airlines, travel agents, regulators and air navigation service providers who can celebrate the, centenary anniversary of aviation in Sri Lanka with a positive frame of mind as the industry is growing everyday.
The growth of international aviation. during the last year was around 10% and domestic aviation is also gearing up to meet the demands. The Government of Sri Lanka has already taken measures to face the challenges of the future aviation growth in Sri Lanka.
The commissioning of the second international airport in Hambanthota (HIA) in 2012 is a huge challenge taken by the Government of Sri Lanka and a dream come true for all of us in the industry.
Airport and Aviation Services (SL) Ltd., the air navigation service provider (ANSP) in Sri Lanka, the client of this project with the support of the Ministry of Aviation, the regulatory authority and the main contractors have taken up the challenge and are well on course for commissioning the second international airport in this historic year of aviation in Sri Lanka.
Coincidently, in the future, the HIA will celebrate 100 years when the county celebrates 200 years of aviation.
The Ratmalana Airport, the first airport in Sri Lanka, getting back its international status in August 2012 is also an achievement in Sri Lanka in this historic year. Already, a few aircraft operations have taken place and the authorities have been very successful in handling them.
The Ratmalana Airport has a huge potential to be developed as a city airport to cater to the medium range aircraft operations of international corporate, medical, technical transits (refueling and crew rest) and the domestic aviation sector, if the infrastructure is developed to meet the necessary requirements.
But the real challenge is the limitations in the expansion process on ground as well as in air. The parliament, the Galle Road, the Zoological Garden and the swamps around Attidiya are a few of the obstacles.
However, if the authorities are positive and bold, with necessary expertise and investments, the objective can be achieved.
Stage two of Phase II development project of the Banaranayake International Airport (BIA) will also commence in 2013. As the BIA is reaching its capacity, the completion of Phase II early is going to be very important to meet the demand of air traffic growth in the BIA.
Considering the above growth and development, the air traffic controllers (ATC) in Sri Lanka are faced with a huge uphill task as the key players in providing safe, efficient and sustainable air navigation service.
Human recourses and infrastructure in air traffic control service are some of the issues which are challenging. In order to meet the need, a rapid recruitment and training programme is already underway at the Civil Aviation Training Centre, Ratmalana.
The main area control centre (ACC) at Ratmalana is modernized and will be available with an advanced air traffic control system in order to provide safe and efficient air traffic control service.
As we celebrate the International Air Traffic Controllers Day on October 20, a number of measures have been planned to celebrate the day, with the view of increasing productivity in the Colombo Flight Information Region.
Providing pilot-friendly and airline beneficial fuel saving methods for all the airlines will be practiced on a regular basis such as User Preferred Routes (UPRs), where trials are already in progress with some airlines, all the way from the departure airport to the destination airport besides Continuous Decent Operations (CDOs), Continuous Climb Operations (CCOs), Performance-based Navigational Departure and Arrivals, Minimizing ATC Delays etc.
These methods will not only benefit airlines as fuel savings but will have a huge impact on the environment excellence in reducing carbon emissions.
The environment impacts are another challenge faced by the industry. To mitigate the environment impact, the air traffic controllers have a vital role to play.
It is a challenge for the sustainable aviation growth in Sri Lanka and reducing the carbon foot print in the aviation industry.
During a survey conducted by the air traffic controllers at the ACC Ratmalana on May 3, 2012, it was recorded that 3938 tons of carbon is emitted to the environment within the Colombo Flight Information Region by 225 aircraft movements (over flights, arrivals and departures).
The challenge for the ATCs will be to reduce the carbon emissions which are increasing everyday with the growth of the industry.
The above practices and their own initiatives as ATCs to minimize delays on aircraft, will certainly contribute to the cause and for the future of the country. We can celebrate the growth, only if the industry is sustainable in terms of safety and environmentally sustainable.
Safety is the primary challenge in this industry, as air transportation is still the safest mode of transport in the world and the rate of growth is very high.
Every ATC system is challenged on this matter. Sri Lanka has done well to satisfy the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in the safety audit programme in the implementation of safety standards in aviation, in accordance with all the annexes to be ranked the 19th in the world and the fourth in the Asia and Pacific region.
This is a huge plus point for aviation in Sri Lanka but a challenge too to maintain the level of safety. If we are unable to maintain the safety levels in our FIR in terms of infrastructure, professional service and quality and with the pace of the neighboring country’s development, Sri Lanka will lose the huge upper airspace.
The pressure will be enormous from the international aviation bodies such as IATA and ICAO, as the present trend in airspace management is the ‘Single Airspace Concept’ for seamless aircraft operations, which is already in practice in Europe but not very far, it may happen in this part of the world too.
As a country, if we are not proactive to meet the challenges, I doubt that our celebrations in the future will be faded.
As air traffic controllers, let’s face the challenges, leading from the front as a professional unit, in order to celebrate the ‘World ATC Day’ in many years to come.
I wish all the air traffic controllers all over the world a Happy ATC Day 2012!
(Sumith, an air traffic controller can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org)