BANGALORE: Six years after all flights began operating from Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), there now appears to be a possibility of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport opening its runway to commercial air traffic again.
The latter, located in the heart of the city, is being used only for defence and VVIP flights. “I personally feel that a city like Bangalore needs two airports and HAL airport has all infrastructure to operate short-haul flights,” Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation G M Siddeshwar told Express on Sunday.
The minister said the State government has to take the initiative to restart civilian operations and send a formal proposal. “Once they send it, I will take it up with our Cabinet Minister (for Civil Aviation) and officials from ministries concerned and regulatory authorities,” he said.
Siddeshwar, however, said before taking any decision, various aspects including the agreement signed between promoters of KIA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation have to be considered. The agreement prohibits operation of any airport within a 150-km radius of the new airport.
Matter of Time
“Central and State governments have invested in the HAL airport and we should not allow it to go waste. The Centre can bring amendments to the agreement by convincing KIA promoters and also by giving them some concessions,” suggested state Infrastructure Minister R Roshan Baig. During his recent visit to Delhi, Baig pursued the matter with senior officials in the Civil Aviation Ministry.
“HAL airport has a runway, air traffic control tower, aero-bridges, terminal building and parking space to support operations of short-haul flights. We should use the infrastructure and the government will make all efforts towards this,” he added.
Plan to Take off soon?
On its part, HAL is keen on welcoming civilian flights again. The management had also taken up the issue with the Civil Aviation Minister and officials in the UPA government.
“Our company lost revenue to the tune of `1,200 crore after the airport ceased civilian operations,” Chairman and Managing Director, HAL, Dr R K Tyagi told Express.
R Shivakumar, president, Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, felt the move held several advantages for the city. “The second airport will help reduce congestion on roads leading to KIA and it will reduce congestion on air routes. We can save time as those taking short-haul flights don’t have to travel all the way to the airport at Devanahalli (around 40 km from the city),” he said.
The Karnataka Legislative Assembly House Committee, constituted to look into the matter during the BJP rule, too had recommended reopening HAL airport for civilian flights.