Navigating the Skies: The Intricacies of Aerodrome Planning

By Abhi

Aerodrome planning stands as a multifaceted and intricate process, involving a series of meticulously coordinated steps and the collaboration of various departments. The orchestration of these efforts is crucial in establishing efficient and safe air transport hubs.

Understanding the Landscape

The initial phase involves a comprehensive analysis of the country and region where the aerodrome is intended. This includes a scrutiny of air routes over the country, region, and local government considerations. If the prospective aerodrome is in India, the State Government initiates the process by requesting the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) for the establishment of an aerodrome.

Governmental Machinery in Motion

Upon the State Government’s request, the MoCA takes charge, requisitioning the expertise of The Airports Authority of India (AAI), Air Navigation Service (ANS), and Architecture and Planning. Their task is to plan the aerodrome design and infrastructure according to the specifications outlined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This involves adhering to the ‘Standards and Recommended Practices’ (SARPs) set by the ICAO, as well as considering various documents, manuals, and amendments related to the aviation industry.

Crafting the Aerodrome Design

With the involvement of AAI, ANS, and Architecture and Planning, the actual aerodrome design process commences. A meticulous study of the intended airspace is conducted, taking into account factors such as geographical and topographical features, meteorological conditions, wind patterns, and soil studies. This primary study is followed by in-depth examinations of technical, aeronautical, and socio-economic aspects.

Precision in Planning

The focus extends to runway coordination, orientation, alignment, and designators. Navigation aids, approach categories, and approach lighting are determined based on prevailing weather conditions. The planning also addresses aspects like runway length and perimeter, ensuring they align with the intended use of the aerodrome.

Safety and Navigation Aids

Navigation aids (NAV AIDS) play a crucial role, catering to both Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) and Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). These aids, including Instrument Landing System (ILS), Very High-Frequency Omni-Directional Range (VOR), and Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI), contribute to safe aircraft operations.

Pre-feasibility Study and Government Review

Following the conclusion of the pre-feasibility study, a comprehensive report, including tour reports and aerial examinations, is submitted to the MoCA. The ministry, in turn, seeks the opinion of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on the proposed site location. The MoD meticulously examines various aspects, including dynamic airspace design and air traffic management.

Military Involvement and Decision-Making

The MoD and the Indian Air Force (IAF) Air Navigation Service (ANS) play a dominant role in shaping opinions and procedures related to air navigation on aerodromes. This influence extends to airspace management, navigation procedures, safety protocols, and even supersedes civil aviation rules when the aerodrome is within the Local Flying Area (LFA) of an Air Force Station (AFS).

Crafting Greenfield International Airports

In cases where a Greenfield International Airport is envisioned, the MoD may decide to accommodate, surrender a portion of airspace, or restrict flying based on detailed studies. Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) are signed with AAI, and the determined routes are incorporated into ‘Approach Plates’ and promulgated in the Air Traffic Management (ATM)/Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) of the Aeronautical Information Services (AIS).

Global Connectivity Through Precise Technicalities

The interlinking of a Greenfield International Airport site harmonizes with dynamic airspace design, air traffic management, and the broader air transport network. Today, the global aviation industry operates close to 500,000 daily flights, ensuring safety, efficiency, and security in every region of the world.

In conclusion, while technicalities may seem endless, the meticulous planning and collaboration among various departments and authorities are the backbone of creating and maintaining safe and efficient aerodromes. For frequent flyers, the intricacies observed at airports may now be viewed with a deeper understanding of the complex processes involved in their planning and operation.

By – Abhi Athavale , a Veteran of Indian Army

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