Passengers can soon use mobiles before aircraft gates open

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation would issue a notification to this effect in the ''next few days''.

This was stated by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel at a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his Ministry.

At present, the use of mobiles is allowed only after the aircraft has come to a complete halt and boarding gates are opened so that their signals do not disturb the communication between the cockpit and the air traffic control.

Regarding Air India, the Minister said the equity infusion by the Government has helped the company lower its debt-equity ratio. While Rs 800 crore has already been infused as equity in the last financial year, the government plans to provide another Rs 1,200 crore soon.

In order to convert its high-cost debt into low cost, he said Air India's debt was being restructured by the Reserve Bank under the guidance of SBI Caps and asserted that the Government would fully support the airline in every way.

Noting that there has been a rebound in air traffic which bode well for the growth of the aviation sector, Patel briefed the Committee on various projects of Airports Authority of India for development and modernisation of the non-metro airports across the country.

The ambitious project of the satellite-based air navigation system, GAGAN, was also under implementation and would enable handling of more air traffic in a much more safer manner.

He said the state-run Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited had made "significant growth" in recent times. It has acquired more helicopters and its helipad in Delhi's Rohini area was almost complete. It would cater to the upcoming Commonwealth Games and help augment tourism and business in the capital.

Responding to some issues raised by the Committee members, the Minister acknowledged the need for more than one airport at cities like Delhi and Mumbai.

He said a Group of Ministers was looking into the contractual obligations of having a second airport in the NCR at Greater Noida vis-a-vis the current airport operator DIAL.

The proposed Navi Mumbai Airport would also take shape in the near future and environmental issues were being addressed, Patel said.

He said a special drive was being carried out by the DGCA to licence all operational airports by December end.

The members raised a host of issues including problems relating to merger of Air India, shortage of air traffic controllers, completion of modernisation of Kolkata Airport and training of airline crew members to handle crisis, an official spokesperson said.

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