Millennium Post

Govt to ensure that 50 non-frills airports take off in 3 years: Raju

“We are rough and ready because these are not finalised yet. We think in three years or so we can get about 50 new airports across the country. These will be no-frills airports. Of these, at least 10 will be operational within a year,” he told a select group of aviation reporters here.

These are part of the new civil aviation policy, cleared by the Cabinet on June 15, that aims to take flying to the masses, the Minister said. The country has 400-odd airstrips, some owned by states.

Some of these airports will be revived under the plan, he said. Each of these airports will need around Rs 100 crore of investment or around Rs 5,000 crore in total investment, and envisages the state concerned to provide the land, security, fire service and water among other facilities free of cost, Raju said, adding private parties are most welcome to come forward to build these airports as greenfield projects.

He talked about free security, noting that CISF is prohibitively costly which can easily kill the very regional connectivity scheme.

With a steep fall in aviation turbine fuel prices since mid-2014, the country has become the fastest-growing aviation market in the world, clipping at an average of 20 per cent growth in domestic traffic every month. “We are trying to convert a wish-list into a work-list now,” the Minister said. He said Maharashtra will be the first state to sign a regional connectivity scheme agreement and exuded confidence other states will also come on board.

The regional connectivity plan will be based on the viability gap funding model for three years, under which 80 per cent of the cost will be borne by the Centre and the rest by the State. In case of the Northeast, it will be 90:10, Raju said. Of the 50 airports, 32 are Airports Authority-owned but are completely non-functional, he said. “In fact, they are non-performing assets for us.” “We are trying to put all these non-performing assets into effective utilisation rather than investing afresh. Each airport will require at least Rs 100 crore for reconstruction,” the Minister said. 

Flights from Ahmedabad to Gulf can now skip Pakistan airspace
Indian carriers operating from Ahmedabad to Gulf can now avoid flying over Pakistan airspace and take a new route over Arabian sea, even as regulator DGCA said the ‘straightening’ of the path has been done to save fuel and not because of any “political issue”. The redrawing of the route, which reportedly has been done at the request of some carriers, comes at a time when bilateral ties have been strained between India and Pakistan, raising concerns about the move. 

Rejecting any such apprehensions, a senior DGCA official on Tuesday said there is “no political issue” in the matter, as reflected in some reports. “Airports Authority of India (AAI) has straightened the route from Ahmedabad to Gulf which will save on fuel,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said. “On the existing route from Ahmedabad to Gulf, our carriers fly over Pakistan airspace. However, on new route, they will not fly over Pakistan airspace,” the official said. AAI provides air traffic management services in the Indian airspace and adjoining oceanic areas. 
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