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GPS-aided GAGAN system, meant for safe flight landings, sees delay in implementation

BENGALURU:  The GPS-Aided Geo-Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) system for aircraft, aimed at boosting passenger safety by guiding pilots to precision landing on runways, will be a big gamechanger for India’s aviation industry.

Domestic airlines, which stand to benefit from reduced fuel costs it will bring about, still have six months on hand to install this system, due to a revised deadline. The sophisticated system was meant to be mandatorily installed in all aircraft by January 1, 2019, as per the National Civil Aviation Policy.

However, poor compliance by the domestic aviation sector forced the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to reschedule the deadline by 18 months, after the deadline expired,.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Airports Authority of India are jointly developing this project at a cost of Rs 774 crore, he said. The first GAGAN system was launched in 2015. “The accuracy and integrity that GAGAN provides will help aircraft maintain a close but safe distance from each other, and its precision signals will help them land much quicker instead of hovering around the skies over airports. Aviation Turbine Fuel is the biggest daily expense for any airline, and this system will help them bring it down,” an aerospace source privy to the developments said. In fact, airlines need to go all out to install them as they will benefit in the long run, he added.

The indigenous regional Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) uses ground stations to send signals to the aircraft. From the point of passenger safety, midair collisions and bad landing of aircraft can be averted, another source said.

“It will particularly benefit small airports across the country, which do not have the resources to become CAT-III compliant (which helps landing and take off in zero-visibility conditions). In flights which do not have the GAGAN receiver, the decision to take off or land is heavily dependent on the pilot’s decision. This will be an accurate reference tool for the cockpit crew, thereby ensuring momentary bad judgments do not result in loss of lives or damage the aircraft,” he said.

No agency was able to provide an estimate of how many aircraft in the country have the GAGAN receiver installed. “The latest aircraft come equipped with it due to its advantages, but the older ones need to be retrofitted,” he said.