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Increase in flight number by almost by five times in Kaunas, ensuring smooth work of air traffic controllers and technicians in conditions of intense air traffic, relocation of part of Vilnius air traffic controllers to Kaunas, and new technologies – these were among the challenges that specialists of SE Oro navigacija had to face when the wheel of Lithuanian capital of flights had been temporarily taken by Kaunas.
From July 14 to August 18, when Vilnius airport was not operating due to works of its runway reconstruction, major number of flights were redirected to Kaunas. In this period, compared to the same period last year, the number of flights in the temporary capital increased almost by five times: air traffic controllers of SE Oro navigacija provided services to 3965 flights departing from or arriving to Karmėlava. In the same period last year, the number of flights handled in Kaunas airport was 800.
The usual number of flights daily operated in Kaunas international airport is about 30. When flights were redirected from Vilnius to Kaunas, the daily number of flights handled reached around 130.
Air traffic control services in Kaunas were being provided by 17 air traffic controllers, including 6 controllers from Vilnius Aerodrome Control Centre who worked and lived in Kaunas in the above-mentioned period.
Operation was taking place round-the-clock in shifts. Depending on the workload, 3–5 air traffic controllers were working in the air traffic control tower. A specialist of technical staff was on duty round-the-clock, and all specialists of technical and engineering staff were working in daytime.
In the territory of Kaunas airport, a mobile ATC Tower was additionally installed for cases of contingency. Fortunately, there was no need to use it.
During the reconstruction of Vilnius airport more flights were also handled in Palanga and Šiauliai airports. In the above-mentioned period the number of flights departing from/arriving to Palanga was 664, i.e. by 16 per cent more than in the same period last year (557). In Šiauliai airport air traffic controllers handled more flights by 31 per percent (531), compared to the same period last year (365).
Although the number of flights handled in Kaunas, Palanga, and Šiauliai air traffic control centres increased considerably, no incident related to air navigation service provision occurred in the areas of responsibility of Kaunas ATCC as well as those of Palanga and Šiauliai.
“It is for the first time that a project of such scale has been implemented in Lithuania. I am pleased to note that due to our responsible preparation and joint efforts we have managed to temporarily transfer the Lithuanian capital of flights from Vilnius to Kaunas, and cope with the emerging challenges in collaboration with colleagues from other institutions”, said Acting Director General of SE Oro navigacija Mindaugas Gustys.
According to him, due to successful collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Civil Aviation Administration, the Lithuanian Hydrometeorological Service, the SE Lithuanian Airports, and the ground handling companies operating in Kaunas airport, Lithuania has succeeded in implementing quite a unique project: redirection of operations from a larger airport to a smaller one.
In order to prepare specialists of Kaunas Air Traffic Control Centre to work in conditions of increased air traffic volume, training on ATC simulator was arranged to air traffic controllers of Kaunas ATCC. All the twelve air traffic controllers of Kaunas ATCC underwent the training successfully.
To reduce the air traffic, expected to increase in Kaunas airport from July, it was decided to redirect all general aviation aircraft (performing flights in Lithuania, and flights from abroad) to S.Darius and S.Girėnas Aerodrome in Aleksotas. Thus, the workload of flight coordinators in Aleksotas aerodrome also increased considerably. To assist in providing services to aircraft pilots in Aleksotas, SE Oro navigacija’s specialists installed a self-briefing office in S.Darius and S.Girėnas Aerodrome.
In the Briefing Office of Kaunas airport 3 instructors are usually employed, to submit the flight-related information, distribute flight plans, and submit the flight information to pilots. In anticipation of increase in flight number, it was decided that instructors of Kaunas Briefing Office would be supported remotely by 5 instructors from the capital. Already before redirecting flights to Kaunas, they had successfully joined the team in Kaunas.
To provide safety of flights, SE Oro navigacija’s specialists also performed a lot of preparatory work: during the period of execution of the project on reconstruction of the runway in Vilnius airport, employees of the Navigation Division ensured the uninterrupted and adequate operation of en-route, terminal and aerodrome navigation aids installed in Vilnius aerodrome. They also performed continuous monitoring of critical and sensitive zones of ILS/DME, and protective zones of DVOR/DME and the direction finder. Before opening of the airport, they conducted all the technical maintenance of the ground equipment, and participated in ILS/DME special flight tests, the results of which confirmed the suitability of equipment for further operations.
Also in preparation for moving to Kaunas, supplements to urgent information related to flight safety were updated. Oro navigacija’s specialists also prepared a lot of significant information to pilots and air traffic controllers on changes in the procedure for taking off from and landing in Kaunas airport.
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