About six airports in state, two of which are managed by the Indian Air Force (IAF), are expected to be ready for passenger flight operations in the next couple of years, under the UDAAN regional connectivity scheme (RCS) of the civil aviation ministry; a move that will expectedly boost Bengal’s dream of becoming a industrial hub.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee while addressing industrialists in the Bengal Global Business Summit 2022, had assured that airports such as Malda, Balurghat, Cooch Behar and Purulia would be soon coming up. The state minister for civil aviation Gen. VK Singh (retd) told the parliament recently that the Indian government has approved Rs 4,500 crore for revival/up-gradation of ‘unserved and underserved’ airports.
The Airports Authority of India’s (AAI) regional executive director, Eastern region, Mr Manoj Gangal told The Statesman that airports such as Cooch Behar, Malda, Kalaikunda, Hasimara, Burnpur (Asansol) and Behala Flying Club, in Kolkata, are expected to be ready in next one or two years for passenger flights.
He said Cooch Behar airport is situated on 174 acres of land and has a single runway of 1069mx30m. It is a licensed airport with a parking area for one ATR twin-engine turboprop aircraft, meant to fly short distances. The airport has a terminal of 2100sqm and can handle 0.11 million passengers annually.
The Balurghat airport on 151.16-acre land has a single runway measuring 1097mx30m. The state government is developing it, confirmed the AAI official. The land was given on a long term lease for 30 years.
The Malda airport with a single runway of 1100m x30m is also being developed by the state government. The Burnpur airport of the IISCO steel plant, in Asansol, has a single runway of 1034m x24m and is being developed by the AAI. The licensing for the airport is under process. It can handle two ATR aircraft. For the Charra airstrip in Purulia, the state government is in talks with the AAI, sources said.
Further, plans are afoot for passenger flight operations from Kalaikunda and Hasimara airbases which handle IAF military aircraft. These are identified as “civil enclaves”.
Mr Gangal said Kalaikunda has a single runway. An ATR 72-600 aircraft will be used on routes Kalaikunda to Vizag and Kalaikunda to Bhubaneshwar. The Alliance Air airline has shown interest in operations. The project is in the pipeline.
Hasimara, in North Bengal, which houses the Rafale fighter jets, has a single runway of 2740m x 45m and will be developed by AAI for operations. The land acquisition for civil flight operations is under process. The airline Zoom Air has expressed interest in the route Hyderabad to Kolkata.
Additionally, the Behala airport in Kolkata, which now handles helicopter operations, otherwise has the capability to house two Dornier aircraft. Once functional, it can take off some load from the Kolkata airport which has reached its saturation level and is looking ahead towards expansion plans.