CIVIL AVIATION Secretary R N Choubey on Thursday said it would be tough to start flight operations at Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) by December next year. Speaking at the two-day US-India aviation summit at Taj Hotel in Mumbai, Choubey said: “About a month ago, we had a meeting with then chief secretary of state government and contractors about the Navi Mumbai airport. We are happy to say that work is going as per schedule.”
He, however, added: “It would be tough for us to start operations at NMIA by next year but we would like to try for it.” Till April, less than half of the project-affected families from 10 villages around the airport site had relocated. Only 1,025 families, out of a total 3,000, have shifted to Pushpak node, where they were provided alternate land. The project faces resistance from certain villagers whose land is required to build the single runway.
Mumbai’s second airport is expected to relieve the congested Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, which sees up to 950 flight operations every day. At least one runway and a terminal building are expected to be constructed at NMIA for flight operations scheduled to begin by December 2019. The summit is expected to encourage investment and technology from the US to India. Among the major investments received, technology innovator Harris Corporation was awarded a Rs 944-crore contract to modernise India’s Air Traffic Management Communication Infrastructure.
“Harris has been awarded a 15-year contract to implement Futuristic Telecommunications Infrastructure to serve as the prime contractor and systems integrator to modernise communication between airports. It is expected to support traffic management operations with an emphasis on safety and reliability,” a senior official from the ministry said.
The technology will act as a safety net and protect data transmission between airports. While it is likely to be implemented at the Mumbai airport within two months, it will be implemented across other airports in two years. “The innovator would have to pay a penalty if it fails to implement the technology in time… It is expected to save almost Rs 60 crore, which we have to pay telecom operators,” the Ministry official added.
India is also looking forward to implementing a baggage screening technology from US-based Smith’s Detection System in nine airports. “In addition, we are looking at inviting US companies to participate in the development of airports. We would seek their co-operation making air travel safer,” Choubey said.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, who was present at the event, said: “We would set up a task force to ensure airplanes are manufactured in India. Indian companies have immense potential to develop hardware to manufacture airplanes and we need co-operation of American companies. To encourage drone manufacturers in India, we are developing a policy.”