THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It looks like the dream of short-distance flying within the state is getting wings. Mahindra Aerospace, entrusted with the task of exploring the feasibility of setting up a 1,200-1,400 m runway in the proposed sites identified for airstrips in the state and connecting nearby airports with its Airvan plane, has submitted its report to the state government, saying the sites are suitable both economically and technically.
Mahindra Aerospace, which held a survey in the proposed sites in Kasargod, Wayanad and Idukki for setting up airstrips on PPP mode, said in its report the sites identified in Idukki and Kasargod are suitable to set up airstrips, and suggested a contour study in the case of Wayanad. It also suggested setting up a company on the lines of Air Kerala to start small aircraft services to the main international airports in the state.
Sources in the state government said Mahindra has been asked to secure the Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) stipulated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). It lays down the minimum operational equipment and instrument requirements for aeroplanes registered in the country and engaged in operations.
The report has also suggested forming a company to hold flight services or entrusting the task with a firm like Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology. But a decision on this will be taken only after securing mandatory clearances from the DGCA. Mahindra, relatively a newcomer in the local aerospace scene, acquired Australia’s GippsAero, which makes Airvan aircraft. It will provide the 10-12 seater Airvan to connect the airstrips with the nearby airports in Kerala as well as neighbouring states.
Airstrip plan: Government set to provide land
The government has agreed to provide the land required for the project, and the investment to be made for developing the runway and other ancillary infrastructure facilities required for operating the aircraft, including the runway, will be on PPP mode. The state government also plans to develop airstrips or heliports in Guruvayur, Palakkad, Munnar, Kumarakom, Alappuzha, Asramam (Kollam) and Varkala.
The project is capable of bringing in sweeping changes in air travel inside the state as one can fly to nearby districts at a rate equal to second- class AC in trains. Earlier, the state had grounded the airstrip projects in Idukki and Wayanad following local residents’ protest. Now the local bodies in the districts concerned are taking the initiative for the project.