Thailand to install more advanced air traffic control system

air-traffic2In response to the explosive growth in the number of flights at Thailand’s airports in recent years, the Thai government said last week it is planning on installing a new more advanced air traffic control system later this year to improve service and safety, and support Thailand’s role as an aviation hub in the region.

“The situation is still manageable, but is in need of change,’’ Minister of Transportation Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told reporters while visiting Aeronautical Radio of Thailand, a state enterprise under the ministry’s supervision. Also known as Aerothai, it was founded in 1948 to provide air traffic control and aeronautical communication services for airline operations and was acquired by the government in 1963.

Aerothai officials said the new system should come on stream late this year or in early 2018, and will be capable of handling 1.5 million flights every year. The current system was designed to handle 800,000 flights a year, but Aerothai said it served more than 900,000 flights in 2016, an overall increase of nearly 10 percent. That exceeds average growth in flights globally, which was 4.6 percent, and in the Asian-Pacific region, where it was between 6 percent and 7 percent.

Minister Arkhom said that the forecasts are that Thailand will be handling 1.5 million flights a year by 2021, and two million flights a year by 2027. The system, he said, will need to be upgraded continually and in stages to keep pace with the growth in air traffic in and out of the Kingdom. The system the ministry is planning to install is called the Thailand Modernization CNS/ATM system, or TCMA.

Aerothai president Sarinee Saangprasit said her agency is working with the United Kingdom’s Aeronautical Information Service to help improve Thailand’s aviation management. As an advisor, the UK agency will help Thailand to better plan its air traffic control and increase its airports’ capacity to handle flights.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, the main air gateway to the Kingdom, is larger in area than Heathrow airport in London, but Heathrow can handle more flights, about two million a year, Arkhom said.

Bangkok and London are among the most visited cities in the world, with Bangkok taking the title of world’s most visited city in 2016, according to data compiled by MasterCard, the United States-based credit card company.

Arkhom said the ministry would implement a five-year plan to improve the country’s ability to handle increased air traffic and would cost roughly $400 million.