So that Prague airport remains a key Central European airport, it needs a new runway and a higher control tower that would look over it, stated Jan Klas, the Chief of Air Traffic Control. He claims that the airport is stretched to its limits during the season.

The Václav Havel Airport in Prague is preparing to build parallel runways. You’ve already informed us that you have to build a new control tower because of this. How big an investment will this require?

The new control tower is closely connected to the future aims of Prague Airport when it comes to building parallel runways and expanding Terminal 2. We’ve supported these projects for a while now. Their execution will be a vital step so that Ruzyně can stay an important Central European airport. Even now, during the season, its capacity is stretched to its limits.

A new control tower is very much needed at the airport, so that the traffic controllers can have an unobstructed view of both of the runways. That’s why it’s going to be 75 metres above the ground, which is higher by 30 metres when we compare it to the one we have right now. The estimated cost of this project will be 380 million crowns. The Air Traffic Control will be able to finance it from its own pocket.

What phase is the project currently in?

Nowadays, we’re working on creating a plan that would deal with the requirements for the new control tower, when it comes to all sectors, be it the user sector or the security sector. At the end of this year, we should have a complete architectonic blueprint for the tower that will come out of a public contract for an architect and a general designer. The construction should start in 2021 and should be completed and put to work in 2023. This will, of course, be influenced by how far the airport will come with the realisation of a parallel runway.

What will be the fate of the current control tower; will it be demolished?

The tower we use now will remain operational and will be used as a testing ground for new controllers and as a backup tower.

This parallel runway should have been already constructed a few years ago. Do you sincerely believe that the construction won’t be delayed any longer?

I hope that won’t happen. But as I’ve stated already, the airport is under pressure during the rush hours, since more and more airlines are demanding time and space for their planes. We can’t solve this without a parallel runway. To my knowledge, the plan to build a new international airport in Vodochody – that would kill the need for a new runway – was definitely abandoned.

The construction of the new control tower should start in 2021 and it should be operational in 2023, stated the ATC.

We’ve a deal with Aero, that we would provide needed operational services for their airport. However, that will take some time. And if Vodochody find their place on the market, Prague and the whole Czech Republic will benefit. Our capital city would surely not suffer under two airplanes. Already, many European cities have more of them.

While Prague airport sees growth, the smaller, regional airports don’t see any big influxes of passengers. Do they have a future?

We need to keep the regional airports operational. We’re providing navigational services to Brno, Ostrava and Karlovy Vary airports and we would like to provide them also to České Budějovice airport, that is undergoing modernization. It’s very important for the Czech Republic to stimulate the growth of these airports that would be a great base for charter flights.

The airspace of Czech Republic has seen a record amount of flights. Was ATC ready for this?

Yes, history-wise, last year has seen the heaviest air traffic on record. We’ve seen 853,420 flights, an increase of 2% if we compare it to the previous record year – 2016. This has been anticipated and the traffic is getting heavier here than in other parts of Europe. We see this mainly as a new challenge, rather than an actual problem.

We’re one of the few ATCs that haven’t caused any delays because of traffic control services. We haven’t racked up the prices since 2009 and we’ve been lowering them since, in accordance to European legislation. For airlines, Czech airspace is very attractive, mainly because of how safe it is and because of its capacity.

Wouldn’t heavy traffic still call for new measures, so that safety can be kept high?

Safety is a constant that has to be kept as high as possible. All parameters show that we’re successful. The Czech Republic stayed free from any happenings that would endanger our air traffic. We can, of course, say that in the future, air traffic will be controlled much more effectively, because of the European Sky project.

Who is using your services the most?

Our biggest customer is traditionally Lufthansa, and then Emirates, Wizz Air and Qatar Airways. When we take individual plane types into considerations, we’ve seen the most planes being Boeing 737s, Airbus A320s and Airbus A319s.

Did you also come upon the largest commercial plane in the world, Airbus A380?

This enormous plane made its maiden voyage across Czech skies on the 20th of March, 2008, so exactly 10 years ago. A380 was seen 17,647 times last year.

Václav Havel airport in Prague currently sees an Emirates A380 airplane once a day, so it’s no longer such a rare occasion as it was earlier.

How many traffic controllers are you employing at the moment?

Their numbers are continuously rising: right now, we have about 250 employees. We have a record number of controllers in training right now and we’re even using air traffic controllers from regional airports. Their number in total is unknown, since we haven’t had them counted, but it’s all depending on the need of the air traffic control.

Are you succeeding in expanding the commercial activity of ATC?

We’re successful in getting contracts abroad, where we’re able to make a name for ourselves. We’re currently training air traffic controllers from Bosnia.

This contract has a value of 7.5 million Euros (200 million Czech crowns). We’re the ones managing this contract. The training of Bosnian ATCs isn’t happening only in the Czech Republic, but also in Bosnia itself, in Finland, in Croatia or in Serbia. It’s a much appreciated experience for us.

We’ve won the tender in Malta. Now we’re trying to agree on the magnitude of this contract and are preparing for signing the necessary papers.