A committee tasked with recommending improvements to air navigation services in India is calling for sweeping changes to reduce air traffic delays that would see more airspace opened up for civilian use and the number of flight information regions cut in half.

The committee was established in March last year with a brief to formulate a masterplan for the further development of India's air navigation services, which have been under great strain in recent years as the domestic air transport market has been growing rapidly.

Flight delays have become much more common in India as a result of air traffic capacity issues, which airlines largely blame on inefficient procedures.

Headed by civil aviation secretary Ajay Prasad, the committee has now presented its report to the minister for civil aviation and is recommending that the number of flight information regions is reduced to two from four, with area control centres located at Delhi and Mumbai.

It also recommends that Airports Authority of India "immediately review air traffic control procedures being followed at various airports, especially at metro airports, and initiate action to increase the capacity of handling air traffic".

The committee says that air traffic control-related delays of more than 5min "should be considered as significant and the capacity to handle the air traffic should be determined accordingly".

In addition to recommending a further modernisation of voice communication, datalink communication, navigation, surveillance and weather services systems, the committee is calling for more airspace that is currently set aside for defence use to be opened up for civilian use.

"A high-level committee of the government should be constituted for common use of Indian airspace and for working out ways of flexible use of airspace. The committee feels that the IAF [Indian Air Force] should review the restricted and danger areas expeditiously," it says.

"As a first step, the airspace above 29,000ft [8,850m] could be released for civil traffic in the presently defined restricted/danger airspace."

The Civil Aviation Ministry says in a statement that it will review the suggestions.

Source: Flight International