IAF stepped in to handle air activity at Jamnagar airport during Ambani’s pre-wedding bash

The bash was attended by a number of celebrities and high profile individuals from across the world

April 14, 2024 11:52 am | Updated 11:54 am IST - NEW DELHI

Jamnagar airport. File

Jamnagar airport. File

The recent pre-wedding bash of Ambani’s in Jamnagar, attended by a number of celebrities and high profile individuals from across the world, saw an unprecedented amount of air activity which was handled by the Indian Air Force (IAF), with over 600 flight movements in five days, and ensured it passed off without incident, according to sources in the know.

Reliance Group wrote to the Defence Secretary asking IAF’s assistance for 24x7 operations of the airfield starting from February 23 to March 4. The Defence Secretary in turn requested the Chief of Air Staff following which Jamnagar air base went into round-the-clock operations mode, a source stated. Initially they were told 30-40 aircraft, but in real it was over 600 movements, inbound and outgoing over the main five days.

“Given the limited facilities here, infrastructure was created in the last minute following detailed planning and deployment of additional manpower. The numbers were unprecedented, Jamnagar had never seen traffic like this before,” the source said. “Given the number of aircraft coming in and the very high profile guests, it needed constant improvisation to ensure smooth flow and prevent any incident.”

Jamnagar is a dual user airfield where the IAF is responsible for air traffic management for civil aircraft movements in coordination with Airports Authority of India (AAI). Being a premier fighter base, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) handles a number of scheduled and non-scheduled air movements on a daily basis, apart from the daily flying of the defence services, another source said. “In case of a requirement, the unused apron areas are offered for parking of civil aircraft.”

The civil apron at Jamnagar airport is very small and can handle around three-four aircraft located at one corner of the airfield, in addition to the very small number of civil staff. Jamnagar air base houses three fighter squadrons and two helicopter units of the IAF.

The invitees at the pre-wedding celebrations of Ananth Ambani, Nita and Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son, and Radhika Merchant included Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Rihanna, Ivanka Trump. Jamnagar airport was given the tag of an international airport by AAI from February 26 to March 6, as reported by The Hindu earlier.

IAF deployed personnel who created roads, taxi tracks, cleared the shoulders of the runways so that large aircraft after landing need not have to backtrack but go in the flow pattern, another source in the know explained. “Ten pit stops were created, that is 10 aircraft on the parallel taxi tracks at the same time offloading into vehicles arranged by Reliance and proceed to immigration.”

However, as manpower provided by Reliance fell short and event close at hand IAF pitched in with additional manpower. Further, Mumbai airport was shutdown for four hours for all non-scheduled flights complicating matters and so IAF had to open up its technical area to prevent a flight safety situation.

After off-loading the flights had to go back to Mumbai, so the ATC also had to tie up with Mumbai, the first source said adding, “In large airports, the ATCs have a separate communication channel for ground movement and separate channel for approach. The Jamnagar ATC had only channel. So the ATC was handling about 60-80 aircraft at a time.”

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