It's curtains for the 10th edition of Aero India today at Air Force Station Yelahanka. Among the unsung heroes, who have stayed far away from the limelight, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower team have played a silent, yet critical role.
With the number of participants at the flying display sharply increasing during every show, the role of the ATC has doubled and their responsibilities becoming more vital.
At AFS Yelahanka, the Flight Display Control cabin is positioned at a specially-erected cabin. A highly-qualified team from the Aircraft Systems & Testing Establishment (ASTE), one of the premier institutions of the Indian Air Force (IAF), keeps a hawk-like vigil on all proceedings.
Efforts towards flawless displays
Their primary job is to ensure that the displays remain flawless, and more importantly, safe. "There's no scope for any error. The show has to go exactly as per the plan. Nothing more, nothing less," says an official.
According to Group Capt T K Singha, Chief PRO, Ministry of Defence (MoD), Kolkata, contrary to belief it is not the ATC controller who orchestrates the aerial choreography.
"But it is done by a small team comprising a few pilots and sharp-eyed air warriors among others. The controller at the ATC tower regulates the movement of all aircraft taking off, landing or operating over the airfield," says Singha.
To ensure this, proper pre-flight briefings are held every day. At the end of the display, proper debriefs are also held.
A number of display screens inside the control cabin indicate the heights and distances the aircraft cannot cross. These are ensured strictly by all operators.
Very coordinated activity
According to officials, flying display is a very coordinated activity. "People are flying to their edges. Also in a very time bound manner they have to get airborne, plus safeties are involved. So while the normal controlling of the aircraft are continued from the ATC, the control of the flying display aircraft is additionally done from here," says an official.
Air Commodore A P Singh is the Flight Display Director, who ensures that no air violations happen.
The task of keeping tight vigil is additionally ensured through specially erected cameras at various airfield locations as well as over demarcated areas to ensure flight safety.
Planes can't violate safety rules
"From here I can exercise ‘veto control' to stop and recall any aircraft should it endanger safety or violate laid down safety parameters," explains an official.
According to Singha, to make the display attractive and more appealing the aircraft usually fly low and closer to the viewing area.
Depending on the speed and the class of aircraft, the height and distances are laid down taking into consideration various factors including the line-up of the static aircraft here on display.
Interestingly, the IAF publicity wing has taken extra efforts this year to facilitate interactions for the media with the unsung heroes of Aero India. "There are many, just that they are all engrossed in their hectic activities. And, we value every minute of their efforts," adds Singha.