Kandahar Airport has a new air traffic control

The new air traffic control (ATC) tower at Kandahar Air Field (KAF) is significantly improving efficiency and safety for both military and commercial aircraft operating from the country’s busiest airport.
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The €145 million project included all the necessary air traffic management equipment such as radars, precision navigation equipment, and meteorological systems.

The tower became operational March 30 after nearly two years of planning and construction. It was funded by NATO as part of the alliance’s commitment to the economic development of Afghanistan.

Col. Don Groves, the deputy commander for operations at KAF, is “very happy with the much improved working environment” for the U.S. civilian air traffic controllers employed there, “moving them from their expeditionary facilities to more permanent ones.”

The airfield has become one of the busiest single-runway airports in the world. In 2009, more than 325,000 takeoffs and landings occurred, and data from the first quarter of 2010 suggests KAF operations have again increased by 50 percent compared to the first quarter of 2009. The increase is due, in large part, to the increased number of coalition forces deploying to Afghanistan as part of the troop increase announced by U.S. President Barak Obama in December.

Standing more than seven stories tall, the tower is one of the largest freestanding, habitable structures in southern Afghanistan.

“The height alone provides immediate operational advantage. There are no longer any blind spots – we have tremendous visibility across and within KAF,” said Richard Aguirre, chief of tower operations at the new facility. “This facility is on par with what might be found at any major military or civilian airfield in the U.S. or Europe.”

The increased visibility will allow the controllers to safely control the ever-increasing levels of air traffic using the airfield.

The tower is staffed around-the-clock by a team of 34 civilian contractors from ATC Midwest until the Afghan authorities can recruit, train and field local air traffic controllers.

While predominantly a military airfield, there are a number of commercial airline flights to and from KAF.

“There are currently three Afghan airlines flying 10 to 15 flights per day from KAF,” Aguirre said.

The Afghan National Army Air Corps also operates Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters from KAF and will soon have fixed-wing aircraft based there. While it is yet to be seen whether the new ATC facility will prompt increased commercial use of KAF, the new tower is a lasting legacy that will benefit the Afghans for years to come.


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