ROURKELA: Suspense over restoration of air connectivity to Rourkela Smart City under Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) ‘UDAN’ seems to be over with the Airport Authority of India (AAI) saying it is likely in May.
AAI DGM Rajiv Handa on April 9 replied to Rourkela Steel Plant Executives’ Association (RSPEA) president and National Institute of Technology -Rourkela Alumni Association treasurer Bimal Bisi that flight operation from Rourkela is likely to commence from May this year.
The letter said Rourkela airport is included for bidding under RCS ‘UDAN’. Bids for operation of flights have been received and approved in the first round of bidding to operate flights from Rourkela to Kolkata and Bhubaneswar. It further added that SAIL being the owner/operator of the Rourkela airport was requested to complete procedures for granting licence by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The AAI is providing all assistance to SAIL in obtaining DGCA licence and other procedural requirements for which an MoU between SAIL and AAI is underway. In February, Bisi had written to the Additional Secretary to Prime Minister PK Mishra on air link following which the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) swung into action.
Incidentally, both Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and Rourkela BJP MLA and former Union Minister Dilip Ray had taken up the issue of air link with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and were consistently pressing the MoCA.
Initially, it was hoped that air connectivity would start from August 2017 but it was deferred. Again, after meeting the AAI Chairman, Ray had expressed hope that the flight operation will be launched from Rourkela on Netaji Jayanti on January 23, but it could not materialise.
Commercial flight operation of Vayudoot to Rourkela had stopped in late 1980s. Under Ray’s initiatives in 2007 and 2014, separate AAI teams had given the go-ahead for operation of small aircraft.
Airport Director of Jharsuguda LN Padhi, who is in additional charge of Rourkela airport, said the minimum required infrastructure has been readied with AAI’s first phase spending of `3 crore, while in the next phase, another `2 crore would be spent.
Rourkela airport’s aviation refuelling facility is second in Odisha after Bhubaneswar international airport. According to AAI, Rourkela airport, with its present runway orientation and dimension, is suitable for operation of ATR-42-type aircraft and the feasibility of extending the runway further is limited to accommodating ATR-72 class aircraft.