KARNATAKA

HAL keen to retain domestic airport

Rasheed Kappan

Due to the aviation boom and the air traffic

BANGALORE: When Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) project was launched, State-owned aviation major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was ready to close its airport for domestic air traffic to shift to BIAL. However, the aviation boom and the air traffic it has generated have resulted in a U-turn in the defence establishment's thinking. HAL is now keen on retaining its airport. The rationale: The Devanahalli airport will not be equipped to handle a projected annual passenger traffic of over 10 million and the HAL airport can take care of the spill over.

The passenger traffic at the HAL airport has grown by 25 per cent in the last five years a stupendous growth. "The growth would have been much more if we had not stemmed the increase due to non-availability of parking and terminal space. With this kind of growth, there is bound to be a spill over from Devanahalli. In the interest of the city and its people, HAL Airport should be retained," the company's managing director, Bangalore Complex, A.K. Saxena, told The Hindu.

If the HAL Airport is closed, Mr. Saxena said, the company would lose about Rs. 150 crore every year, earned by way of aircraft parking, landing and navigation fees levied on airline operators. "The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is also likely to lose money at Devanahalli. Although it holds 13 per cent share in BIAL, the returns will be much lower," he said. With about 300 take-offs and landings every day, HAL airport has emerged as the third busiest in the country. The high traffic has put pressure on the airport's infrastructure. But if international flights are shifted to Devanahalli, domestic operations could proceed smoothly. "This will be no problem even with the Defence, VVIP and HAL's own test sorties, which make up about 20 per cent of the daily flights," he said.

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