A 2003 plan for the extension of runway at Lohegaon airport still stuck over acquisition of a private plot on the airport’s western side, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has now requested the Indian Air Force (IAF) to carry out the proposed expansion on the eastern side, on land owned by the air force.
The issue was discussed in a meeting of the Centre’s infrastructure committee headed by Union Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari earlier this week. Gadkari asked the IAF to “positively consider the proposal” of extending the runway on the eastern side.
The runway at Lohegaon airport is about 3-km long. In 2003, the IAF and the AAI planned to extend it by about 1,000 metres to make it suitable for use by widebody aircraft. The plan has, however, been stuck for over 14 years as a 20-acre private plot on the western side of the airport, owned by resort owner Kanhailal Taneja, has proved difficult to acquire. The plot owner moved the Supreme Court, opposing the acquisition arguing the IAF should instead use defence land on the eastern side for the expansion.
Considering the inordinate delay because of the court case — which is still pending in the Supreme Court — Pune MP Anil Shirole had proposed the IAF consider using defence land on the eastern side. The issue was discussed in the meeting of the infrastructure committee on January 30. “This project is very important for Pune city considering the growth in air traffic. Since the Purandar airport may take a few years to come up, the capacity of Lohegaon airport to handle traffic has to be increased. One of the major constraints the airport faces today is the short runway length.
Since the expansion plan is pending for a long time, I proposed that the other options should be examined. The issue was discussed in the infrastructure committee meeting and Gadkari asked the IAF to positively consider the option of extending the runway on the eastern side,” Shirole told The Indian Express.
Pune Airport Director Ajay Kumar said the ball was now in the IAF’s court. “We have requested the IAF to extend the runway on the eastern side by 1,000 metres. Now, further action has to be taken by them. The issue was discussed in the meeting at Transport Bhavan on January 30,” said Kumar.
On December 3, 2003, the Centre had sanctioned the acquisition of the 20-acre private land at survey no. 245 in Lohegaon village for the extension of the runway and construction of a soft ground arrester. While the Divisional Commissioner of Pune had in September 2007 ordered the acquisition of the land, the owner challenged it in the Supreme Court.
The extension of the runway is critical for the operation of widebody aircraft like Airbus A340s and Boeing 747s, which carry more passengers compared to narrowbodies like Airbus 319s, 320s and Boeing 737s that currently operate from the airport.