THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The ambitious airstrip project of Kerala has received a momentum with the state government giving permission for Mahindra Aerospace to explore the feasibility of setting up a 1,200-1,400 m runway in the proposed airstrips in Kasargod, Wayanad and Idukki and connect nearby airports with its Airvan plane in the first phase.
According to government sources, Mahindra Aerospace has approached the state government along with some other companies evincing interest to start air services using its 10-seater aircraft. A high-level meeting held recently then explored the possibility of setting up the facility along with starting services and Mahindra Aerospace has conveyed its willingness in the business model.
The company has also been directed to look into the prospects of starting an aircraft manufacturing hub in Kerala, similar to the one it owns in Bengaluru.
The company is reported to have informed the state government it can operate 10 or 12-seater Airvan to connect the airstrips with nearby airports in Kerala and neighbouring states.A secretary-level meeting which saw the participation of officials from CIAL that had held a feasibility study of the airstrips a few years ago, has given permission to Mahindra (a newcomer on the local aerospace scene that acquired Australia’s GippsAero which makes the Airvan family of aircraft) to work on the business model.
The company will be responsible for developing the runway and other ancillary infrastructure facilities required for operating the 12-seater aircraft, including a 1,200-1,400 runway for which the state government will make available the land in selected locations. Other airlines can operate from the airstrips and the investment to be made by the company can be recouped in the long run.
Other terms such as the duration of the contract will be decided only after vetting the suitability of the business model as the project is in the preliminary stage now, said a senior bureaucrat.In the second phase, airstrips in others districts will be set up and this airstrip project is expected to bring in sweeping changes in air travel inside the state as travellers can fly to nearby districts at a rate equal to the second AC rate of trains, said a senior officer privy to the meeting.
The state government had earlier given the nod to hold a study for setting up airstrips or heliports in Periya in Kasargod, Panamaram in Wayanad, Guruvayur, Palakkad, Munnar, Thekkadi, Kumarakom, Alappuzha, Asramom (Kollam) and Varkala.
Though the initial attempt of the state government to set up airstrips in various places was grounded a few years ago following a public protest, things have changed now with the public coming in support of the project.A committee has also been formed with the Transport Secretary as chairman to revive the project.