2 - 8 May, 2001
By Miriam Dunn
Photo by Paul Blandford
The opening of the new air traffic control centre last Friday marked an important step in the setting up of a new company at Malta International Airport.
The new centre, which was opened last November and has been gearing up for full operations over the past five months, will soon fall under the wing of the soon-to-be-launched Malta Air Traffic Services, which will shortly become the new Air Navigation Service Provider.
The new centre, housing state-of-the-art equipment, means that for the first time, a radar service within the Western part of the Malta Flight Information Region is being provided with two en-route radars, thus ensuring continuous radar coverage.
The Italian company, Alenia, was awarded the tender to replace the outdated navigational equipment with state-of-the-art equipment, while the new automated air traffic control centre was considered an essential element of this modernisation process.
The new set-up puts Malta at the forefront of the European aviation scenario, while ongoing modernisation of the equipment and infrastructure in communications and surveillance will help MATS in its aim of achieving full radar coverage in the entire airspace of the Malta Flight Information Region as soon as possible.
A contract was also signed last October with Alenia to upgrade the en-route radar positioned at Dingli, refurbishing its primary radar element and changing the secondary element with modern monopulse radar identical to that situated at Luqa.
The contract also caters for the provision of radar data information from Greece and Sicily for use by the Malta system and the Greek radar data will, for the first time in Maltas aviation history, enable the Maltese controllers to provide a radar service in the East sector of the Malta Flight Information Region.
The Italian radar data, meanwhile, will make it possible for the Maltese controllers to effect on-line data interchange and silent radar transfer with the Rome Air Traffic Control Centre in accordance with Eurocontrol recommendations.
MIA chairman, Lawrence Zammit, explained that although the company was aware that air traffic services were to be hived off from the airport, which became the Air Navigation Service Provider in 1998, it still assumed a major role in setting the scene for future development in this sphere.
He highlighted the importance being given to training, saying that all supervisors and operational examiners have now been trained at the Eurocontrol Institute of Air Navigation in Luxembourg, while the old Air Traffic Control Centre in Malta was now being used as a training base.
Speaking at the opening, Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami, said the new air traffic control centre and the equipment it housed took Malta yet another step further towards the principle of being a central Mediterranean hub.
He also pointed out that the operations there were in line with the EU transport policys aim of making the reform of air traffic management in Europe a priority.