Expansion of runways at small airports delayed

September 14th, 2008 - 8:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 14 (IANS) State governments are not providing additional land to airports for expanding runways, a move which is delaying the expansion plan of several small airports in the country, a senior official said. According to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), there are 17 airports across the country that have short runways - less than 7,000 feet - which make landing and take-off of big aircraft like Boeing and Airbus risky.

These include airports at Vijaywada (Andhra Pradesh), Gaya (Bihar), Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), Jaipur, Udaipur (Rajasthan), Aurangabad (Maharashtra), Bhopal, Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), Cooch Behar (West Bengal) and Pondicherry.

“The work on these projects was scheduled to start from April this year but the lackadaisical approach of the state governments was delaying the work,” an AAI official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

However, runway expansion works at Madurai and Trichy airports in Tamil Nadu, and Guwahati and Silchar airports in Assam have begun.

There are few other Indian Air Force airports also, where runway expansion was planned but did not take off. “We are yet to get a formal clearance and additional land from the defence ministry,” the official added.

These include airports at Dibrugarh (Assam) and Jammu in Jammu and Kashmir.

The expansion of these runways is estimated to cost Rs.3 billion to the government exchequer.

Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA), a body representing commercial pilots in the country, has urged the government many times to extend runways at smaller airports as it endangers both passengers and aircraft.

“These airports have short runways and are not safe during heavy downpour,” ICPA general secretary Vikram Yadav told IANS.

“Earlier we had mid-sized aircraft landing at and taking off from these airports, but now Airbus and Boeing aircraft too operate from these airports. So it becomes necessary to expand the runways,” Yadav added.

The regional airlines, which were planning to launch services to new destinations, put their plans on hold, thanks to the uncertainly over runway expansion.

“Operating at smaller airports is a tricky situation and riskier too. We would expand air operations once runways at these airports are upgraded,” MDLR Airlines chief operations officer U.K. Bose said.

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