Slot woes may clip wings of private planes

Tycoons and politicians depending on private or chartered planes might soon find their movement limited.

Delhi International Airport Ltd’s (DIAL’s) draft general aviation operations policy, which aims to ensure optimal utilisation of aircraft capacity for all users and reduce overhead delays and congestion, limits the operational flexibility of non-scheduled operators.

The draft policy, issued last month, said the airport operator would issue airfield capacity schedule for every season, indicating slots for non-scheduled operators 15 days in advance. Besides, a non-scheduled aircraft will have to get clearance three hours before arrival or departure. The clearance number will have to be shared with the air traffic control while filing the flight plan, it says.

As of now, operators file a flight plan with the air traffic control and inform DIAL of the schedule through authorised ground handlers. Permission is usually taken a day in advance. Slot rejections are rare, though air traffic controllers at outstation airports can delay departures in case of congestion at Delhi. This is done to reduce aircraft holding time and to save fuel.

Source: DGCA
Non-scheduled operators have opposed the move, saying it would take away the flexibility of general aviation operators. “If you take away that, what is the purpose of owning a private jet?” asked Rohit Kapur, president of Business Aircraft Operators Association. “The proposed regulation could reduce movement and hamper growth.”

DIAL, however, has insisted the measures were needed to streamline operations. “Access for scheduled operators is currently regulated by the slot scheduling process, while non-scheduled or general aviation users have no restrictions. This impacts the air navigation service providers’ ability to have a predictable flow of air traffic and optimise airport capacity. Regulation of general aviation flights is critical to ensure optimal utilisation of airport capacity for all users and reduce overhead delays or congestion,” said a spokesperson for GMR, which runs the Delhi airport.

Kapur said: “We’re working with DIAL to address the issue of capacity constraints but feel the proposed regulation is not a solution.” 

Delhi airport is the busiest in the country and handles more than 1,200 flights daily. Its three runways can handle 67 flights an hour. But the airport has been facing slot constraints. On an average, the airport sees 35-40 general aviation movements.

Flight operators have also asked for transparency. “We want fairness and transparency in slot allocation. Details of available slots should be put up online and there should be no discretion in allocation,” said an industry executive.

The Mumbai airport had a few years ago imposed restrictions for general aviation. Non-scheduled operators are not allowed to take off or land during morning and evening peak hours, to address slot shortage.

Mumbai also has a dedicated general aviation terminal. But the proposal to develop such a facility at Delhi has been delayed. Operators have said the airport should provide better facilities before introducing any changes. The GMR group spokesperson added that creation of a separate terminal was not linked to measures being worked out by DIAL.

There are also plans to add 63 parking bays for general aviation aircraft, in addition to the 28 in place now, at Delhi.

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