Early Days of Plaisance Airport & Personal Efforts at Enhancing Safety of Operations
Param Soobarah, CSK, FRAeS, BSc (Lond), MSc (Cranfield)
Director of Civil Aviation (Mauritius) 1971 – 1982
Synopsis of Presentation and papers Submitted
The Speaker thanked AeSM and its President for the opportunity to speak about how the evolution of Plaisance Airport and the Mauritius Civil Aviation from their humble beginnings, and of his own efforts at improving the Safety of Aircraft Operations all the time when he served as Air Traffic Controller from 1960 to 171, and as Director of Civil Aviation thereafter until his retirement in 1985. The story would be too long to be told within the time constraint of the AeSM members’ meeting, so he would table some documents which members could read in their own time, and take up a few bits from history and spend time over certain key aspects of his work as Director of Civil Aviation.
The full text is contained in his paper Doc AeSM160901 Soobarah Prezn – Main Report. He tells us that at the end of World War II, Mr Henri Rouillard Flying Control Officer took over from HMS “Sambur” as the airport was known from the British Navy and managed it as best he could, until in 1959 when Mr. R. I. Varney, an Operations Officer from the UK Civil Aviation took over. Mr Varney took quite a few measures including recruitment of ATCOs and radio technicians, repairing and resurfacing the runway, improving electrical, radio and communication facilities as well as facilities for to assist aircraft landing on RWY 13 at night, improving airport security, establishing Search and Rescue (SAR) arrangements with the RAF at Gan (Maldives). Bob Menham who took over brought in further improvements to approach and landing aids, as well as extending the runway. He was succeeded by Mr Aubrey Corbin who saw Mauritius becoming independent, when a search for a new airport site was initiated and additional navaids were installed (a DME).
The Speaker himself was appointed Director of Civil Aviation in 1971. His principal contribution was the installation of an Instrument Landing System on RWY 13 for a straight-in approach from the west coast via Bigara. Working against all odds he was convinced from his analysis that it was feasible to to install an Instrument landing System for aiding approach and landing on Runway 14, in spite of adverse views from both Consultants and Politically motivated technicians, and was able to convince equipment manufacturers that an ILS-DME approach and landing system that would comply with his operational parameters was satisfactory and would be acceptable to aircraft operators, and be permissible under ICAO Standards and operating Procedures. Operational Performance certificates issued by the Flight Calibration aircraft confirmed an ILS Category 1 performance.
The Speaker points out that he took on the opportunity offered by the OCAM Conference of 1973 (Organisation Commune African et Mauricienne) and the OUA Head of States Summit of 1976 to carry out major improvements to infrastructure, which with the onset of the ILS at Plaisance, took away most of the arguments against the continued development of Plaisance Airport.
Members with a mathematical mind may find the annexed document ATTACHMENT IP5A “Technical Appendix to IP5” to be of great interest since the Speaker has, therein, discussed the effect of the curvature of the earth on calculations of heights and distances within the Terminal Movement Areas(TMAs).
Another matter very close to the Speaker’s heart and which affected him personally was the aggressive and motivated criticisms levelled against the ILS and the associated Approach and Landing Procedures by people who probably saw their pet project—an airport in the North—gradually slipping out of their hands. Mr P Soobarah spoke with passion about the procedures he had put in place for use with the Instrument Landing System. Here too there were people (presumed more knowledgeable) who would quote from the ICAO SARPs (Standards and Recommended Practices) to criticise what they said was higher than recommended glideslope angle (3.5%) of the Plaisance ILS, against the 2.5% in the ICAO Standard, notwithstanding that almost all the ILS in the world had angles higher than 2.5 and even higher than 3.5%. Only aircraft operators seemed to welcome and appreciate (they recognised the benefits to their operations) Mr P Soobarah’s determination to proceed with the ILS installation against all advice and expertise from Consultants.
Mr P Soobarah also referred to a second paper titled “Observations on the Current ILS-DME Instrument Approach Procedure for RWY14” wherein he has revisited the procedures that were put in place by him and subsequently by others who were tasked with studying the Approach and Landing procedures. He strongly believes the Department should re-institute the procedures that were promulgated in 1978. He has put forward the view that the Operations Division of the Department of Civil Aviation should make its own assessment of the issues raised in that paper and, if they agree with him, then a review the SSR International Airport Approach and Landing Procedures for RWY 14 is called for. If the DCA disagrees, then the Speaker would certainly welcome the DCA’s arguments. There are four (4) ATTACHMENTS to that Paper(A,B, C, and D). Of these ATTACHMENT A which is a copy of a Chart AD2-FIMP 38.1 of 28 April 2016 (ILS-DME RWY 14) is an Instrument Approach Chart from the AIP published by the Dept of Civil Aviation whose reproduction and use is graciously acknowledged.
(i) Early days of Plaisance and Efforts at Enhancing Safety of Operations, (Main presentation and the Technical Appendix)
(ii) Observations on the Current ILS-DME Instrument Approach Procedure for RWY14(Charts and Attachment A, B, C, and D)
About Paramanund Soobarah, CSK, FRAeS, BSc, MSc – The Author
Mr Paramanund Soobarah (born 1934) joined Department of Civil Aviation in 1960. Was appointed Director of Civil Aviation in September 1971 and retired in 1985.
Served as ICAO Project Coordinator in Chad in 1982, and joined IATA in 1985 as IATA Regional Representative until 1991, then moved to the Middle East as the IATA Regional Director (middle East) from which position he retired in 1999
In 1994, on the occasion of the 50 years of ICAO, on the recommendations of the Government of Mauritius, Paramanund Soobarah was awarded the ICAO Gold Medal for distinguished services to Civil Aviation
In 2012 the Government of Mauritius honoured Paramanund Soobarah with the honour of CSK (Commander of the Star and Key of the Republic) for distinguished services to the Mauritius Civil Aviation.