THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Ever imagined catching a ‘daily’ flight to work? Or visiting the state capital and flying back home the same day? Better still, enjoy the incredible landscapes from a vantage point while flying to famed tourist retreats. Given the thrust Kerala Government is putting on setting up airfields and airstrips across the state, these ‘flights of fancy’ may not be too far-fetched.
Already boasting the most number of international airports in the country, with four, Kerala has drawn up an ambitious project to set up airstrips or airfields in every district without an international airport. As part of the project, the government recently approved holding of pre-feasibility studies for two airstrips - in Idukki and Wayanad.
According to the office of the Transport (Aviation) Principal Secretary, the department has identified as many as nine locations to construct airstrips or airfields, with Bekal in Kasargod and Guruvayur in Thrissur featuring in the plans. The project is aimed at bringing air connectivity to every district and promoting regional air travel among both the local populace and tourists.
While the high-speed rail corridor or the bullet train project has failed to cut much ice, Kerala’s topography is deemed suitable for a new aviation traffic culture.For a nature-blessed region wedged between the Arabian Sea on the west and the Western Ghats on the east, airstrips and airfields pitch themselves to land constraints.
Transport (Aviation) Principal Secretary Biswanath Sinha told Express: “The government policy is to connect the districts that don’t have airports with the state’s international airports by developing airstrips or airfields. As part of this policy, the government has given permission to hold a pre-feasibility study for the construction of airstrips at Anakkara in Idukki and Wayanad through the Cochin International Airport Ltd.”
The soaring domestic air traffic in Kerala is an indicator of how things are shaping up. Out of the 1 crore passengers handled by CIAL in the current fiscal, 48 lakh were domestic passengers. In the early millennium, the domestic footfall in the airport was around 2 lakh.CIAL managing director V J Kurian said they are ready to help the state government in realising the dream of having airstrips in every district.
“The growth of domestic aviation is phenomenal and airport operators have to double their capacity every four years. Besides, the airline companies in the country are currently operating 480 aircraft while orders have already been placed for another 1,080 planes expected to arrive over the next 10 years,” he said.
The attractive part of the aviation dream is the Centre’s UDAN scheme which aims to stimulate regional connectivity with flights covering distances up to 800 km through a market-based mechanism enabling people to shuttle between cities within a price range of `2,500 in less than an hour. Cities in neighbouring states such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka too will come under UDAN’s distance ceiling limit.
■ The total footfall in the three major airports in the state has stood around 1.6 crore in 2017
■ CIAL registered 22% increase in domestic passenger volume, touching 4.84 million compared to 3.94 million in 2016-17
■ The state has sanctioned Rs 4.55 crore as consulting fee to complete the pre-feasibility study for the Sabarimala Greenfield Airport
■ The state has given the nod to hold second round of study to set up airstrips in Idukki and Wayanad
(To be continued)