Millennium Post

Govt mulling conversion of unused airports into special economic zones

The government is looking at converting some unused airports into special economic zones where aircraft leasing companies can park their planes and showcase them to potential customers, a senior official said on Thursday. 

Besides, it would explore ways to reduce the cost of leasing aircraft as part of larger efforts to make the domestic aviation space more attractive, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said.

The new civil aviation policy, unveiled on June 15, provides for measures to enhance regional connectivity and reducing the cost of leasing would help this initiative.

The Civil Aviation Ministry would look at the possibility of utilising certain unused airports for the purpose of parking aircraft and even use aerodromes for plane-breaking or dismantling of old aircraft. There are around 400 unused airports and airstrips across the country.

“I met someone who said that we have so many airports in the country. Is it possible for us to declare some of them as SEZs (Special Economic Zones) and allow them to be used for two things. One for leasing companies all over the world to come and park the aircraft. 

“We are doing well in ship breaking and he was saying can’t we do something in plane-breaking,” Choubey said here. Noting that these are “exciting ideas”, he said efforts should be made to derisk the aviation sector.

Striking a note of caution, he said however that even though the Indian aviation sector is witnessing strong growth, it needs to be ensured that it stays ahead of the growth curve.

“If we fall behind the growth curve, for example as it happened in case of urban development in the country, which then led to slums, then there will be chaos in the skies, airports...and we will probably not be forgiven by people,” he said. According to him, there are various growth challenges in the aviation sector including on how “do we marry security requirements with growth requirements”.

About regional connectivity scheme mooted in the new civil aviation policy, Choubey said if the crude price remains soft for the next 4-5 years, by then regional air connectivity would have found very strong roots.

“Where will you find the possibility of 20 per cent growth rate in the next 10 years. It is very very exciting,” he said about the sector, while speaking at an industry event. Srinivasan Dwarakanath, President of Airbus Division in India, said ‘Make in India’ is at the heart of its strategy in the country. Noting that fundamentals in the domestic aviation sector are right, he said implementation of the civil aviation policy is very important.

Speaking on the occasion, Pawan Hans Chairman and Managing Director B P Sharma said the heliport in the national capital would be ready within a month.

Pawan Hans is the country’s largest helicopter operator. The company is also diversifying into high potential sectors such as heliports, helipads, seaplane operation, small fixed wing aircraft and MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations). 
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