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6th April 2024 (11 Topics)

India’s One Airspace Idea

Context

Context

India is planning a major move to unify its four Flight Information Regions (FIRs) in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, into one continuous airspace in Nagpur and have harmonized Air Traffic Management from Nagpur which has a unique central location in the country.                                                   

1: Dimension- Persistent Challenges in air traffic management

  • Inefficient air traffic management exacerbates congestion issues and compromises flight safety. India's airspace is fragmented, with multiple air traffic control (ATC) authorities responsible for different regions, leading to coordination challenges and suboptimal routing.
  • Skies are already capacity-crunched and are set to become even more so with the advent of new airspace users such as electric vertical take-off and landing aircrafts (eVTOLs).
  • Managing increased volume of airborne vehicles efficiently, while maintaining or even enhancing safety and avoiding congestion, represents a significant challenge.

2: Dimension- Impact of the move

  • The single continuum Flight Information Region (FIR) would yield a lot of benefits in terms of safety, efficiency, user satisfaction, reduced carbon footprint and optimum manpower utilization.
  • Indian Single Sky Harmonized Air Traffic Management at Nagpur (ISHAN) is expected to reduce separations (between flights) and have more fuel-efficient flight paths for aircraft.
  • The unification aims to streamline and enhance air traffic management (ATM) operations in the region.
  • If this plan is implemented, the air traffic controllers of every area control would not be required to coordinate for domestic flights flying above 25,000 ft (flights in the upper airspace) as they would all be handled by Air traffic controllers (ATCOs) in Nagpur.
  • The ATCOs in every region or airport would then only work to guide the flights approaching or taking off from an airport until it enters the upper space which is referred to as ‘Area control’ in aviation parlance”.

Fact Box:

India’s Airspace

  • India is the major air navigation service provider in the Asia-Pacific region and controls over 2.8 million square nautical miles.
  • This quantum of airspace is controlled by India through four flight information regions (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai) with a sub-FIR at Guwahati.
  • India is sharing its Flight Information Regions (FIR) with 12 neighbouring countries.
  • Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the regulatory body for Civil Aviation in India.
  • The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is the statutory body which is responsible for creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure in India.
    • It also takes care of Air Traffic Management (ATM) and Communication Navigation Surveillance (CNS) of Indian Airspace.

Rights over Airspace

  • Article 1 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, with regards to sovereignty of Airspace states that ‘every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory’. 
  • Further, the territory of any state includes 12 nautical miles of territorial waters off the coastline.
  • Airspace which is not within any country’s territorial limit is considered as ‘International Airspace’.  
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