Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bagdogra airport will have four more parking bays

Bagdogra, Oct. 10: Bagdogra airport will have four more parking bays by Puja next year, allowing seven aircraft to anchor there at any given time.
“The work order for apron extension has already been issued and the job is expected to be completed by next Puja,” said airport director K.K. Bhaumik. The apron is that part of the aerodrome which is set aside for loading, unloading or maintaining aircraft.
The Airports Airport Authority of India (AAI) has allocated Rs 18 crore for the project, the director added.
At the moment, the three existing bays at the airport are just enough for the four flights that come in and go on an average every day.
“With all these flights operating between 12 noon and 4pm, the bays are just enough to handle the traffic. But if there is an increase in flights and airlines, especially during those four hours, it may become difficult to get by with just three bays. That is why we are building four more,” Bhaumik said.
The Indian Air Force, which runs the Bagdogra air base and manages the runway and other basic requirements and facilities, has given a no-objection certificate to the apron extension project, which will take up about 48,000 square metres of additional tarmac area.
“In fact, we have given permission for the construction of three more bays (on top of the four to be constructed now), but I hear that the AAI will construct them in the second phase,” said Group Captain Chandramouli, the station commander of Bagdogra air force base.
However, he could not say when the second phase would begin.
There are also talks of a new terminal building. “A preliminary round of discussion was held recently between the AAI, the district administration and the air force for the construction of a second terminal building to cope with the increase in passenger flow,” said Bhaumik.
“When the airport does get international status, the old building will be the international terminal, while the new one will handle domestic traffic,” the director added.
The airport is yet to get signal from the civil aviation ministry for upgrade to international status, but there is no let up in preparations for it. Bhaumik was among the three AAI directors who attended a seven-day course in Switzerland on international airport management last month.
In addition, a new automatic door opening mechanism has been installed at the exit point of Bagdogra airport and a foreign exchange counter is on the anvil.
But Bhaumik warned that even after the permission for upgrade comes, several steps must be taken before the airport actually gets international status. These include setting up of customs and immigration, plant quarantine and a health check-up centre and more counters, besides a separate terminal building,” the airport director said.