Redundancy link to avert ATC downtime


By bappaditya paul
State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is setting up a redundancy microwave link to Kolkata airport to ensure uninterrupted feed from various air surveillance apparatus and radars from different locations in eastern India in the event of a snap in the existing primary optical fibre cable (OFC) link.BSNL LogoThe redundancy link is expected to become operational next week.
The move comes close on the heels of a BSNL OFC link failure on 18 October that had blacked out automated flight data transmission to the Kolkata Air Traffic Control (ATC) for nearly 10 hours; the controllers had salvaged the situation by falling back on an old mechanism that uses Very High Frequency (VHF) radio communication to locate and guide flights in the sky.

“Taking lessons from the incident, we have taken up two remedial measures. First, we are setting up a redundancy microwave link to the ATC building that will provide direct connectivity from our Dum Dum main exchange. Secondly, we are laying an OFC line interlinking the old and new terminals at Kolkata airport,” said Mr Asim Kumar Sinha, the spokesperson for BSNL’s Calcutta Telephones that serves the city airport.Mircrowave linkElaborating on the matter, Mr Sinha said that the existing OFC link to Kolkata ATC has “two circuits” for transmitting feeds from eight automatic dependant surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) units and nine radar stations located at different places in eastern India (including one inside Kolkata airport). “We will provide two more circuits on the redundancy microwave link so that in the event of a failure in the primary OFC link, feeds to the ATC remains uninterrupted,” he said.

Calcutta Telephones has already started work on the microwave link that includes installation of a microwave system and antenna at the ATC and another dedicated antenna at Dum Dum exchange. “The work will be over in next two-three days and the redundancy link will hopefully to become operational latest by early next week,” the officer maintained. Kolkata AirportAs regards interlinking Kolkata airport’s new and old terminal with an OFC line, the idea is to provide one more backup for the crucial flight operations and control services.

“We already have a microwave link to the new terminal and we are going to have a redundancy microwave link in the old terminal by next week. Now the idea is to interlink the two terminals with OFC so that in the event of a link failure in one terminal, the link from the other terminal will automatically shoulder the load and everything will run uninterrupted,” Mr Sinha explained.     Kolkata ATC consoleKolkata ATC carries out very important functions vis-à-vis flight services over entire eastern India and parts of the north-west India. Besides handling the near 300 flights that fly in and out of the Kolkata airport every day, it also
monitors around 700-800 aircraft that over-fly the Kolkata Flight Information Region (FIR) daily.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 30 October 2014.)


Bangladesh border in West Bengal remians unfenced as state drags feet over land acquisition

By bappaditya paul

Even as West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee last week pointed fingers at Central security agencies over Bangladeshi infiltration, nearly 235 km stretch of the Bangladesh border in Bengal remains unfenced as the state government has been dragging its feet on acquiring the required land. Border milepostThis apart, work on a number of proposed border outposts of the Border Security Force (BSF) has been held up for sometime now over non-availability of land and so is the task of constructing border patrol roads.

According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) latest status report on border management, till 31 March this year, a 234.85 stretch of the Bangladesh border in Bengal could not be fenced due to “population residing within 150 yards of the border, pending land acquisition cases and protests by the border population.”

This is the longest unprotected stretch among five states that share India’s 4,096.70 km long international border with Bangladesh. Apart from the 2,216.70 km of this that runs through Bengal, Assam shares 263 km, Meghalaya 443 km, Tripura 856 km and Mizoram shares 318 km. The unfenced border in Assam now stands at about 4.8 km; in Meghalaya 115.57 km; in Tripura 65.54 km and in Mizoram it is 115.79 km. Unfenced borderAs regards border patrol road, of the 4,407.11 sanctioned length in the five states, 153 km remains incomplete in Bengal, 29 km in Assam, 151 km in Meghalaya, 190 km in Tripura and 187 km in Mizoram.

The Centre had in 2005 identified a 1,528 km stretch of Bangladesh border in Bengal that was to be protected from infiltration and smuggling by erecting barbed fences; out of this, sanction for fencing was made for 1,471 km in two phases.

While the Centre is directly implementing the task through its various agencies; the state’s role is to acquire the required land or removing encroachments as a major stretch of the borderland are under cultivation.

It is during the second phase work that the Central agencies began facing land hurdle. People living in border areas in several districts such as Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, North and South Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia and North 24 Parganas began to resist the move as the fencing were to come up on their paddy fields or homestead land. Border patrolThe Centre has thus been compelled to extend the fencing deadline time and again. Even after this, till now it has succeeded fencing only 729.15 km out of 964 km stretch sanctioned in phase-II. For the past two years, the fencing work has been progressing at a snail’s pace with barely 71 km being covered since the 2011-12.

The BSF, which man the Bangladesh border says that they have raised the matter with Bengal government several times but failed to convince them to expedite the facilitation of land for fencing, patrol roads and border outposts. “The latest meeting was held in August-September,” said a BSF officer not willing to be named.

A very senior official in the Bengal home department confirmed the veracity of the meeting but partially disagreed on what had transpired. “The meeting chaired by our chief secretary discussed land acquisition problem for some proposed border outposts, the proposal for which was submitted to us very late. As far as fencing is concerned, I don’t think they apprised us of any difficulty,” the officer said.Border road“Furthermore, one knows that the UPA government had passed a new land acquisition law but the present dispensation at Centre is yet to frame the corresponding rules. Hence, the country now does not have any functional land acquisition law; thus there is no question of Bengal government acquiring land now,” he added, requesting anonymity.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 17 October 2014.)

Star Alliance picks Delhi, Mumbai airports for seamless hub project

By bappaditya paul
Global airline network, Star Alliance, has identified Delhi and Mumbai airports for its Seamless Hub Project that aims at facilitating efficient and speedy service to flyers. The move comes three months after Air India became a member of Star Alliance that has 27 airlines worldwide in its fold.Star Alliance1
“We have identified Mumbai and Delhi airports for Seamless Hub Projects. This will be implemented next year,” Star Alliance vice president, Customer Experience and IT, Mr Justin Erbacci, told a group of visiting journalists in Frankfurt. “On implementation, this will improve the quality of service to passengers at these airports and will especially ensure seamless transfers from one Star Alliance member airline to another.”

Seamless Hub Project is an initiative of Star Alliance wherein it undertakes physical survey of a selected airport and identifies both physical and technological loopholes that are a hindrance to smooth service to passengers that includes easy check-in, hassle-free security check and speedy inter/intra airline transfer of flyers and baggage. Right now, there are about 10 Seamless Hub Projects in various airports worldwide; Beijing and Bangkok are the only airports in Asia covered under the initiative.

Elaborating about the project, Mr Erbacci said: “Once we have identified the shortcomings, we seat with all stakeholders at an airport such as the airport management, operating airlines and ground handling agencies. We suggest them the changes that are required to improve passenger experience; our main focus remains on no-cost or low-cost solutions.”

Delhi Airport

The solutions may include repositioning of service desks, realigning the access route to various facilities, putting up additional airport signage or improving / repositioning the existing signage and putting in place a co-ordination mechanism for Star Alliance member airlines etc.

“A common check-in facility for all Star Alliance member airlines at the selected airport could be an additional feature of the Seamless Hub Project,” Mr Erbacci said. Of the 27 Star Alliance members, 11 airlines operate flights from Mumbai airport, while nine airlines operate flights from Delhi airport.

It takes about six to eight months to realise a Seamless Hub Project in its entirety, but some solutions could be implemented immediately after being identified.  Nitty-gritty of the Delhi and Mumbai projects will be thrashed out in Star Alliance’s next Chief Executive Board (CEB) meeting scheduled in December.


Star Alliance CEO, Mr Mark Schwab, clarified that irrespective of whether there was a change in Air India leadership (read chairman-cum-managing director) or not over the next two months, the CEB would meet in New Delhi in December as scheduled.

“Mr (Rohit) Nandan has done a terrific job vis-à-vis putting Air India on the path to a turn-around. But it’s entirely the prerogative of AI owners (read the Government of India) to pick up new leadership, if they and when they want to,” Mr Schwab said when told that New Delhi was considering posting a new CMD for Air India. “Irrespective of whether there is change of guard in AI, the CEB meeting would be held in Delhi. Our agreement with AI would continue; we have very high-level of confidence on them.”

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India and was in Frankfurt from 6-9 October on an invitation of Star Alliance. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 12 October 2014.)