J. Balaji

In-principle nod comes following pressure from political leaders

It may also allow operations till 10 p.m. after new terminal gets ready

Encouraging response to night flight to Mumbai

VISAKHAPATNAM: The Navy has, in principle, agreed to reduce the three-hour break in the afternoon for commercial flight operations at the Visakhapatnam airport by an hour and also consider allowing night operations till 10 p.m. when the Rs. 95-crore new terminal building gets ready later this year.

Sources said, following pressure mounted on the naval headquarters by political leaders of Andhra Pradesh , the Navy top brass agreed to allow flights from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (total 11 hours).

Presently, to facilitate night operation from March 30 onwards, the Navy had revised the timing from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (9 hours). Prior to March 30, the schedule was from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (9 hours).

Staff shortage

However the relaxation in the break time might come into force only from June if everything goes well as the Navy faces severe manpower shortage to operate the air traffic control (ATC), which is under the control of the Navy’s INS Dega.

There is also a suggestion that ATC employees of the AAI, who were affected due to closure of Hyderabad and Bangalore airports (old), could be relocated to Visakhapatnam to assist the naval personnel.

A hitch

The present three-hour break in the afternoon is posing hurdles to the airlines too as in a recent instance the crew of the Jetlite flight that came from Mumbai via Hyderabad were told by the Navy to strictly go by their schedule as their flight landed late and wanted to take off during the break time. They were told that they might have to wait till 5 p.m. to take off if the delay happened the next time.

Meanwhile, the introduction of a night flight to Mumbai via Hyderabad by SpiceJet received encouraging response from Vizagites as the Boeing 737 is operated with 80-85 per cent occupancy daily, said SpiceJet station manager here A. Prasad.

Jet Airways too plans to reintroduce flights to Visakhapatnam from next month onwards by operating an ATR 500 aircraft on the Hyderabad-Vizag route. With this, the number of airlines being operated from the city would go up to seven from the present six. They are: Air India, Simplifly Deccan, Kingfisher, Paramount, Jetlite and SpiceJet.