Pune Airport Update
Union minister for civil aviation Praful Patel said that the Maharashtra state government ought to move faster in terms of acquiring land for the proposed international airport at Rajgurunagar near the city. “I wish it (acquisition) happens faster than the progress now,” he said. Patel also assured that the civil aviation ministry was doing everything possible to sort out issues of space constraint at the existing Lohegaon airport. The airport is part of the Indian Air Force’s Lohegaon air base. “We may have to seek more land from the defence ministry for this purpose,” he said. For the international project, the state government has notified 2,565 hectare of land for acquisition, covering Chandoos and Shiroli in Rajgurunagar — about 40 km from the city off the Pune-Nashik highway — and adjoining hamlets like Kivale, Thakur Pimpri, Wadgaon Patole and Koregaon.However, farmers in these villages have opposed the acquisition move and the government has since been engaged in a dialogue process to resolve the matter. Pune district collector Chandrakant Dalvi has been holding these dialogues with groups of farmers from the ‘affected’ villages.Patel said, “It was upto the state government to see how early it clears the acquisition issues. We (ministry) have given all necessary clearances to the government for the project.” Referring to the Lohegaon airport, Patel said the ministry was conscious about the existing requirements and would do everything to address the space issue.Getting the newly laid parallel aircraft taxi track operational and facilitating ground infrastructure for the installation of an instrument landing system (ILS) topped the agenda of the visit by V.P. Agrawal, AAI’s member (planning), sources at the airport said.Agrawal, who ranks among the senior-most AAI board members, heads the critical task of planning and development of airport infrastructure across the country.The taxi track, which cost Rs 17 crore, has been ready for operation but awaits the IAF’s clearance. The parallel aircraft taxi track helps reduce the holding time of aircraft in mid-air and also enables quicker and efficient take-offs and landings. For the airliners, this means a reduction in fuel loss.The AAI has acquired imported CATI level ILS equipment at a cost of Rs 12 crore for the airport. The ILS enables pilots to safely navigate the aircraft for landing in low visibility conditions caused by inclement weather like heavy rain or fog. It is especially helpful during the winter months when instances of flight delays, aborted landings or diversions are more frequent and prove a major cause of inconvenience to air passengers. The AAI had planned to get the ILS operational in time for the Commonwealth Youth Games 2008, beginning October 12. But this won’t be possible now as the IAF is yet to facilitate the ground infrastructure required for the installation of the ILS.According to sources, the revised deadline for setting up the ILS has been set for January 2009. Agrawal’s visit was part of the liaisoning effort with the IAF for getting these facilities to function soon, the sources added.The Pune airport has witnessed a steady growth in air traffic volumes over the last five years and now handles an average of 5,000 passengers and has an average flight movement (take-offs and landings) of 60 daily. Earlier, the AAI board member also held a meeting with the airport officials here to review the ongoing airport expansion and modernisation work. An AAI official pointed out that a part of the upcoming international departures terminal building at the airport is to be commissioned by the start of the CYG. Agrawal inspected the construction site.