ROURKELA: The Steel City has missed another date for launching of commercial flight service under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) UDAAN with technical issues gripping the RSP-run Rourkela airport of SAIL. Though Airports Authority of India (AAI) has augmented necessary infrastructure of the airport, commercial flight services could not be started till an MoU is signed between the AAI and SAIL.
Rourkela BJP MLA Dilip Ray, who has been pursuing the issue consistently with the Union Civil Aviation Ministry and the AAI, had exuded confidence about launching of UDAAN on Netaji Jayanti on January 23, but it has not worked out. Quoting AAI sources, Ray had earlier said that UDAAN would be launched from August 2017.
In fact, restoration of commercial flight in Rourkela airport has been a long-standing demand after the Vayudoot had stopped its operation in 1989. In 2007 and 2014, separate AAI teams had given the go-ahead for operation of small aircraft.Airport Director of Jharsuguda LN Padhi, who also holds additional charge of Rourkela airport, said the minimum required infrastructure has been readied and documentation is underway towards signing of MoU between AAI and SAIL. He said SAIL now has private airport licence and subsequent to it, it would have to take commercial licence from the DGCA for public use of the airport, adding once the process is done, the airport may immediately start operation of 19-seater aircraft.
Padhi said subsequently, the Rourkela airport may be developed further to operate ATR-72 type aircraft with 72-78 seating capacity. Jharsuguda airport, capable of receiving Airbus-320, would become a regular airport in the next three to four months, he informed. Sources said the AAI has spent above `three crore for infrastructure augmentation, including raising of the height of perimeter walls, expansion of the runway, construction of terminal building, redevelopment of the fire service facility of RSP, car parking and approach road. As construction of permanent building would take time, a portacabin structure has also been installed.
They said another ` two crore would be spent in the next phases. Till now, the Rourkela airport's aviation refuelling facility is second in Odisha after Biju Patnaik International Airport at Bhubaneswar.Although the AAI authorities claim Rourkela airport could start operation within 15 days of signing of MoU, those in the know of fact expressed doubt over it.Odisha unit BJP secretary Dhiren Senapati said commercial flight service would start shortly.