Editorial: Why not a full-fledged civilian airport

Srinagar: Union minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha was in Srinagar the other day. The minister announced various goodies for air travelers in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, he said that various international flights will be made operational from Srinagar airport as the move will give the much needed impetus to the state’s tourism industry.

Jammu and Kashmir state has been fighting connectivity issues for a very long period now. We have a four month long winter period here which leaves us totally dependent on air travel as the only road link between Srinagar and Jammu (NH1) remains out of bounds for traffic owing to the bad condition of the road that makes travel during winter all the more unimaginable.

However, Srinagar as well as Jammu, the twin capital cities have not been able to have independent civilian airports as both the airports are under the direct control of Ministry of defence and civilian flights in times of emergencies always get a second priority. Secondly, the airports at both the places lack the basic infrastructure not to talk about the state of the art facilities that are a requirement in today’s technologically advanced world.

Srinagar airport which caters to almost 30 flights on daily basis, and the rush increases during Hajj and tourism seasons, is not even having the night landing facility nor does it have the facility of fighting the visibility issues which tend to become more serious during the winter months.

The installation of night landing facility has been one of the long-pending demands in Kashmir, with experts and tourism players reiterating that absence of such a facility was hitting the Kashmir economy badly.

Srinagar airport receives around 40 flights a day during peak tourism season. The air traffic will grow once the night-landing system is installed. But then this alone will not solve the issue the air traveler faces.

The airport witnesses delay in landing and takeoff due to poor visibility during winters. This phenomenon creates havoc for the tourism Industry as high end tourists prefer to stay away from such destination which ends up in creating more hassles for them.

The Instrument of Landing System (ILS) is one of the crucial mechanical equipments needed for an airport particularly the one that has to operate in long foggy and snow bound winters.

At present this equipment has been set up at Srinagar Airport, but technical advice says that the equipment is to be removed and separate space should be acquired for installing it. Even the Division Bench of the State High Court has taken up a suo moto case and had called the representatives of the AAI and the IAF to appraise it of the difficulties and requirements for installation of ILS.

The Court has been informed that the minimum visibility required at present is 1300 meter and if approach lighting system is installed on the runway, then the minimum required visibility would be 800 meters.

These are major issues which the aviation sector in the state faces, but still an important question needs to be answered, why cannot the state have a two civilian airports in the twin capitals of Jammu and Srinagar. If the Union Aviation Ministry has sanctioned three airports for the state why should the state government not insist on two civilian airport facilities. Time is ripe to raise such a demand.



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