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Kerala floods; Aviation Ministry clears Kochi naval airbase for civilian use

To minimise the disruption, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked domestic airlines to mount additional flights to Kerala.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi | Published: August 19, 2018 12:51:29 am
The flooded Cochin International Airport on Thursday. (Express Photo)

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has cleared the use of naval airbase INS Garuda at Kochi for civilian operations to address the flight disruptions caused at Cochin International Airport due to unprecedented rains and flooding in the region. Air India’s low-cost subsidiary Alliance Air will start operating flights from Bengaluru to Kochi Naval Air base from Monday. The airline will use its 70-seater turboprop ATR aircraft.

“In view of disruption of flights from Cochin Airport due to floods, a joint team sent by Ministry of Civil Aviation has approved starting of scheduled commercial flights using ATRs between Bangalore and Cochin Naval Air base, starting from 20th August morning to be operated by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India,” Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey told The Indian Express via a text message. Choubey added that connections to other airports such as Coimbatore and Madurai were also in the pipeline and that other airlines will also soon start operations to the Naval Air base. Follow LIVE UPDATES Here

Monday onwards, Alliance Air will operate two flights a day from Bengaluru to the Kochi Naval Air base and one daily flight each on the Bengaluru-Coimbatore and Kochi-Coimbatore sectors. After the Indian Navy offered the base for civilian use at a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) headed by the Cabinet Secretary on Friday, the government decided to conduct a test flight to ascertain the feasibility of operations there. The said test flight was done by Alliance Air early Saturday. The Naval base INS Garuda was in use for civilian flights till 2000. In the early 1990s a proposal to expand operations at airports was made but it was rejected by the Navy due to security concerns. Following this a greenfield airport was constructed, which is in use now.

The proposed commencement of civilian flights from the Kochi Naval Air base from Monday was also discussed at the National Crisis Management Committee’s meeting on Saturday, which was the panel’s third meeting in three days to review the rescue and relief operations in Kerala. Thursday, Cochin International Airport announced suspension of operations till August 26, leading to flight cancellations. This prompted airlines to start special flights to nearby airports including Thiruvananthapuram. Furthermore, a group of Air India pilots wrote a letter to
the Prime Minister Saturday offering to fly aircraft voluntarily to Kerala for ferrying passengers or essential supplies
without payment.

To minimise the disruption, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked domestic airlines to mount additional flights to Kerala. Out of 71 arrivals and 74 departures of scheduled domestic airlines to and from Kochi, 23 arrivals and 24 departures were rescheduled and additional 19 arrivals and departures have been scheduled to and from Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Coimbatore airports. Nine foreign carriers operating to Kochi have also rescheduled their flights to and from Thiruvananthapuram.

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