Women take over KIA apron, handle 245 flight ops

Women take over KIA apron, handle 245 flight ops

A global airline with 238 passengers exceeds its runway halt area at the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA). Acting quickly, two women in control of apron operations rush a 'Follow Me' vehicle and guide the aircraft to its parking slot.

In five minutes flat, the runway is fully cleared for the next "safe" landing.

This unscheduled but dramatic episode on Thursday was clinching proof of women conquering another male bastion, a challenging job that demands speed, the presence of mind and quick action.

On International Women's Day, as an all-women crew took over KIA's operations for the morning shift, they proved their mettle with finesse.

For the day's apron controller Rachana Kattimani, the Airbus 330 flight awaiting vacation from the runway was of paramount concern.

"The aircraft had already contacted the Air Traffic Control (ATC), from where the message was relayed to the Airport Operations Control Centre (AOCC) and then to us. We had to take quick action as three arrivals were planned immediately," she recalled.

In came her colleague, Keerthana with a 'Follow Me' vehicle. An exit taxiway undergoing civil works was quickly freed and the A330 safely guided to its designated slot.

"You need guts to get an aircraft behind you. There are a lot of safety issues. You need to maintain a distance of 200 to 250 metre from the aircraft, constantly maintaining contact with the ATC," apron manager Beena Jayachandran later explained.

Peak-hour evacuation of an aircraft stuck on the 4,000-metre runway could get tougher. In such a scenario, the aeroplane is quickly guided to the 190-metre exit taxiway.

The 6 am to 2 pm shift on Thursday had the all-women team handle 245 landings and take-offs.

Besides the 'Follow Me' cars, the 36-women team also took control of the AOCC, the Airside that includes the Apron, Airside Safety Regulations, Taxiways, Runways, New Rapid Exit Taxiways (RETs) and Taxiway Designators.

Men took the backseat as their women counterparts managed aviation safety, guest relations and terminal operations.

The ATC, managed by the Airports Authority of India, had a women's team manage the control tower. As if in sync, Indigo, AirAsia and GoAir operated flights with an all-women crew.

Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) had conceptualised the all-women shift for airport operations in mid-April, 2017.

BIAL Chief Operating Officer Javed Malik said, "Considering the sensitivity and complexity of airport operations, these women underwent stringent training to ensure absolute compliance and safety at India's third busiest airport. There was no room for error."

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