VIJAYAWADA: “It is an apology for an airport, even bus stations are much better,” was how Civil Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju described the Vijayawada airport during his visit to the city on Thursday. Speaking to mediapersons after discussions with the Airports Authority of India and district officials on the expansion plans of the airport, he opined it is a long way from becoming an international airport.
He said the airport was designed when Avro aircraft were in vogue long ago, but was hardly suitable for present air traffic. “An airport should be presentable, but this airport is not. It lacks even basic amenities and area is congested. There is lack of security hold up and no space for aircraft parking base. Serious work needs to be done to make it presentable,” he observed. Hinting that international airport at Vijayawada might not be a reality in the next two-three years, the minister reminded that even the international airport in Hyderabad did not happen overnight. “We had to steadily build up air traffic at Begumpet airport, where the facilities were upgraded, before the international airport has become a reality,” he said. A similar strategy is needed in Andhra Pradesh. “Now that traffic is steadily building up and sustainable levels are good, Vijayawada airport has to be modernised in a phased manner and measures will be taken to that effect,” he said. Ashok Gajapathi Raju said he had held a meeting with both AAI and GVK officials to get some inputs over the proposed expansion plans. He felt the airport terminals and runway need to be designed in such a way that all types of aircraft can be operated.
With regard to the land needed for the expansion plans, the minister evaded a direct reply and said the subject was a State matter. About the plans for more airports, he said airports would not come cheap.