The exponential growth in air passenger traffic in India at a rapid annual rate of over 18%—not only in metro cities, but also in tier II and tier III cities—has brought to focus the need for infrastructure development of airports in smaller cities and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has adopted elaborate plans to achieve the same.
Since the last week of December 2017, fog in most parts of North India has caused delay in flight operations across all airports in these parts of the country, and a huge chaos has been reported from airports mostly in smaller cities in this region, as these airports do not have the capacity to handle massive passenger traffic.
However, the AAI has chalked out elaborate plans to develop all airports under its control in the next five years to cater to the needs of the growing air passenger traffic in the country. The AAI will spend a massive Rs 20,000 crore in the next five years to upgrade and build new terminal buildings and upgrade air facilities, such as ATC (Air Traffic Control), runways and other operational efficiencies.
Airports in Vadodara, Jammu, Gorakhpur, Jharsuguda, Calicut, Hubli, among others, are being upgraded with new terminal buildings and other operational efficiencies by the AAI and the new facilities are likely to be inaugurated by the end of this year. A newly constructed Greenfield airport in Sikkim’s Pakyong was inaugurated in November last year at a cost of over Rs 550 crore, for operation of ATR aircraft.
The Patna airport in Bihar, along with the airport in Lucknow, is going to receive a massive facelift with start-of-the-art facilities and new terminal buildings along with other operational conveniences by 2020. The Patna airport will be developed by the Mainhart agency based in Australia with the construction of a new terminal building that would be able to handle over three million passengers per annum, against the existing 0.7 million passenger capacity at the airport. The Lucknow airport will be re-developed by the Egis agency based in France and would be upgraded to handle almost thrice the existing passenger handling capacity at the airport.
J.B. Negi, spokesperson of the AAI, told The Sunday Guardian, “We are trying to upgrade all airports, for which an elaborate plan has already been chalked out. The government has also agreed to release funds for the construction and upgradation of these airports year-on-year. With the UDAAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) scheme also taking off, more development of airports and airport infrastructure will keep happening in the coming years.”
Not only terminal buildings, operational facilities at all small as well as big airports are being upgraded by the AAI. This includes installation of CAT II and CAT III B technologies at runways for flights to land on minimum visibility during foggy or monsoon seasons.
On Thursday, the Kolkata airport received the CAT III B technology to help airplanes land even when the visibility is just 50 metres. This technology is also likely to be installed at smaller airports like in Amritsar, Lucknow and Jaipur sometime this year.