A year after the integrated terminal at Vadodara Airport was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the authorities are planning to expand the existing runway so that international operations can begin. According to officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), a survey was conducted to explore the feasibility of expanding the airstrip.
The current airstrip is about 8000-foot (2600 m) which cannot be used to land large aircrafts, typically used by international carriers. Vadodara Airport Director, Charan Singh said, “The minimum airstrip length required to land international flights is about 11,000-foot (3350 m).To connect Vadodara internationally the airstrip has to be elongated. It is possible to start flights to closer countries like Thailand with aircrafts the size of Airbus 320, but it will be very restricted. For an international flight, any aircraft needs a minimum fuel for six hours, which the airbus cannot contain.”
Vadodara MP, Ranjan Bhatt had written to MoS Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha requesting him to start the Hub and Spoke facilities at Vadodara airport which allow a local airport to provide immigration services to passengers travelling to international destinations via connecting flights. Bhatt said, “I have been concerned that although we have put in place the best infrastructure to create this terminal, which is also the second green airport in India, we are not able to utilize it to the full capacity due to the absence of the Hub and Spoke services. I have requested Sinhaji to grant me time to discuss this issue and start immigration facilities as soon as we can. I am scheduled to meet him soon.”
In the letter dated April 19, Bhatt wrote, “The Vadodara airport terminal was inaugurated on October 22 and serves about 12 domestic flights everyday. However, we request you to facilitate the Hub and Spoke services to begin customs, immigration and security check facilities for passengers traveling onward to a central airport for international flights, until the time that international flights start from Vadodara.”
Bhatt said that while the authorities were aware that the existing technical restrictions will come in the way of making it an international terminal, the airport was constructed with a futuristic vision. He added, “We are taking one step at a time. I have also had a word with Mansukh Manvadiya MoS for Road, Transport and Highways to understand if we can acquire a patch of the Vadodara-Mumbai highway that intersects the existing airstrip and the surplus land belonging to the airport on the other side of the highway. Mansukhji has very positively responded to our request and told me that while an underpass will not be possible, we could divert the highway to ensure that the run way can be elongated.”
Officials at AAI said that if the government clears the expansion of the runway, they will initiate the process of land acquisition to expand services and hangar space for the airport. Bhatt’s letter to Sinha also adds that currently only Ahmedabad airport in Gujarat serves the entire state as an international terminal and the need to make Vadodara airport functional is “grave”. Ahmedabad airport which has around 20 international flights daily for various countries has a runway length of 3,503 m.
With inputs from Ritesh Gohil