The Airports Authority of India has started trial operations of data link communications at Mumbai Airport in a major technology boost to the pre-departure clearance to aircraft in the country.

Pre-departure clearance is an approval issued by air traffic control to pilots for use of runway, flight routes and cruising levels that the aircraft is expected to maintain. Such clearance is currently issued using voice communication, but the trial is examining the potential of data-link communications.

With this system, the pilot will request clearance using the cockpit’s flight management computer that will connect directly with a controller’s work station.

“This will reduce human errors and enhance safety and operational efficiency by saving time for the pilots who no longer have to wait for obtaining clearance,” says a senior official at the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The official also notes that many pilots concurrently request and obtain clearances with voice and data requests, so this new system should reduce duplication and improve on-time departure.

The country’s operational airports handled a total of 157.5 million passengers (118.0 million domestic and 39.5 million international) in 2011. The total number of aircraft movements amounted to 1.52 million and freight handled exceeded 2.3 million tons in 2011, according to official figures.

Data link departure clearance (DLC) systems also are being deployed at New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad international airports.

Indira Gandhi International Airport photo: IGIA