After Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) approached the Centre seeking its nod to restart civilian aircraft operations from its airport, chorus in support of reopening the facility is growing. Industry representatives, former bureaucrats, aviation experts, the CM’s advisor on urban affairs and a minister opine that Bangalore needs two airports. The HAL airport that had handled a large number of passengers a year before its closure is now used only for defence and VVIP flights.
Bangalore is growing rapidly and we need two airports. We support HAL’s initiative to reopen its airport for short-haul flights and will take up the issue with the Centre, Industries Minister Murgesh Nirani said. In 2008, all commercial flights were shifted to Bangalore International Airport (BIA) at Devanahalli.
To reopen the HAI airport, the Centre needs to take a relook at the concession agreement - between promoters of the Greenfield Airport and the Ministry of Civil Aviation - that prohibits operation of any airport within a 150 km radius of BIA. Nirani said that the State government want all infrastructure in the state to be developed and utilised to improve air connectivity. He hoped that HAL airport will be reopened.
Aerospace policy announced by the state government lays emphasis on developing airport infrastructure. FKCCI Chairman K Shiva Shanmugam said that the Centre and BIAL should rework the agreement to reopen the airport for short-haul flights. It takes just 35 to 45 minutes to reach Coimbatore or Chennai from Bangalore. But passengers need to start two hours in advance to reach the new airport in Devanahalli to take a flight. Traffic too is a problem, he added.
Former additional chief secretary K Jairaj said that the agreement between the Centre and BIAL can be renegotiated as the circumstances in which it was signed have changed radically. The new airport has already crossed 12 million passengers and is expected to reach 17 million very soon. Advisor to CM on Urban Affairs A Ravindra said that HAL can operate short-haul flights and the agreement can always be renegotiated.