BIA officials scramble to avert disaster

Wednesday June 18 2008

Express News Service

BANGALORE: Aviation officials at Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) are striving to correct a folly that earlier escaped being noticed by those involved in air traffic control, but could’ve proved to be expensive.

In a shocking case of carelessness, a first in the history of aviation, Bengaluru International Airport is using the same VOR (Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range) of 112.3 MHz that INS Rajali, a naval airbase of the Indian Navy at Arakkonam, has been using for years now.

The frequencies planned should be unique to each airport to help pilots identify and locate different airports. The goof-up was detected after several pilots mistook the Arakkonam naval base to be BIA, but were fortunately alerted on time, averting a disaster.

BIA officials in charge of communications and navigation are now scrambling to change the frequency they are using.

General Manager (Communications and Navigation Surveillance), Airports Authority of India (AAI), at BIA, Govardhan Rao told this website’s newspaper on Tuesday, ”We are in the process of changing the frequency that we are using for BIA as it is the same as that of Arakkonam naval airbase. We will change it as soon as possible.”

On whether the AAI was not informed by the Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) about the chosen frequency already being in use, Rao said, ”I am not aware of this, but had the AAI known that the frequency was being used by some other agency, AAI would not have chosen the same.”

The WPC Wing of the Ministry of Communications makes recommendations on Radio Frequency Allocation for all wireless users in India to make sure each one uses a unique frequency.

Transition from one frequency to another might cause disturbances in operations at BIA, but AAI is contemplating various options to make the transition as smooth as possible. AAI will coordinate with the airport operator and airlines to make the transition without disturbing BIA’s operations,” Rao said. An aviation expert suggested that the AAI could make the transition without disturbing operations at BIA by using the VOR of HAL Airport to guide an aircraft towards Bangalore.

When an aircraft comes closer to Bangalore, it can be easily directed towards BIA using a combination of high technology navigational aids.

GPS, initial navigational system, ARNA Navigation System, radar and many other advanced systems together would suffice to guide an aircraft to land at BIA.

This unusual mistake in selecting a frequency confuses pilots as their navigational aids read BIA and INS Rajali as the same and interchangeably.

”This confusion might have led an aircraft en route BIA to the restricted areas of the military base at Arakkonam and vice-versa. An unauthorised entry into military airspace can be extremely dangerous for the passengers and the crew,” the expert said. However, the operators of BIA were ignorant of this mistake in the selection of frequency by the CNS Department of AAI.

BIAL CEO Albert Brunner told reporters on Monday that he did not know of any problem with the frequency BIA was using.

Source : The New Indian Express

Clarification from me :
The entire Communications and Navigation System and Air Traffic Management (CNS-ATM) at BIAL airport, is the responsibility of the Airports Authority of India. This includes the frequency allocations.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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