TIRUCHY/THOOTHUKUDI: Expecting a surge in VIP movement towards Rameswaram to pay last respects to former president APJ Abdul Kalam, the Tiruchy international airport and Thanjavur Air Force Station of the Indian Air Force have both been put on stand-by mode.
Aerial traffic in the form of special flights and helicopters are expected to peak as a large number of national leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, are expected to reach Rameswaram via Madurai airport. With a view to managing the sudden rush, the Airports Authority of India, Tiruchy, and Thanjavur Air base officials have been alerted to be on stand-by mode for any exigency that may arise.
Meanwhile, the body of APJ Abdul Kalam, who passed away at Shillong on Monday following a cardiac arrest, was brought from New Delhi to Madurai in a special flight on Wednesday afternoon. Later, it was airlifted by a chopper to Mandapam. Kalam’s last rites would be performed as per Islamic customs at his hometown of Rameswaram on Thursday.
A large number of political leaders and followers are expected to swarm Rameswaram to pay their last respects. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu confirmed that Prime Minister Modi would attend the funeral.
Meanwhile, EVKS Elangovan, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president, told reporters that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi would also visit Rameswaram to pay his homage.
As Madurai airport is not built to accommodate such heavy traffic and is constrained by limited parking space, Tiruchy and Thanjavur facilities have been ordered to prepare to handle any diversion made to that area, airport authorities said.
“While a helicopter from Andhra Pradesh has been positioned at the Tiruchy airport, there has been no communique from the government of Andhra Pradesh or from air traffic services from any other airports about any diversion,” said K Jebaraj, deputy general manager (Air Traffic Services), Tiruchy.
“Since it is an emergency situation, any flight or helicopter can make an emergency landing here in case of exigency or refuelling,” Jebaraj added.
Meanwhile, temporary helipads were set up in various parts of Thoothukudi district as a standby measure to receive VIPs coming for the funeral of Kalam. Collector M Ravi Kumar inspected one of the facilities at the SAV School Ground.