Patna,(BiharTimes): After Airport Authority of India, it is the Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, who has warned that Patna’s Jaya Prakash International Airport will be closed for big aircraft unless the state government steps in to help improve safety by providing land to extend the runway.
The Union minister has written to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar saying operations by big aircraft such as A320s and Boeing 737s flown by a majority of airlines are unsuitable for the airport, which has a lower-than-normal runway length.
Reports suggest that Nitish has now promised quick and prompt action in this regard.
Earlier, he was being accused of not taking any interest in the expansion of airport in Patna as he wanted it to be shifted to his home district, Nalanda. But strong protest by frequent fliers and tough stand taken by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) might force the state government to change its stand.
The civil aviation minister’s August 3 letter said that: “The airport at Patna in the present status is considered to be the most critical airport in terms of flight operations due to short runway (1,556 metre as opposed to 1,800 metre) and obstacles in the form of trees in both approaches of runway and several other deficiencies, including obstacles on private land around airport.”
The letter further said that the chief minister should adhere to the safety guidelines, "without which DGCA may be constrained to stop operations of bigger aircraft at the Patna airport, which may cause huge inconvenience to people.”
Knowledgeable sources blame the state government for the present situation. “The state government can provide land on the western side of the airport as there is a large chunk of land in the possession of Veterinary College,” said one of them.
If the Patna airport would be closed for the big aircraft it would be a major blow to its image as perhaps it would be the first state capital to face such a situation.
This amounts to closing the airport to a majority of aircraft flown by leading private airlines. It may hit a majority of one million passengers who use the airport every year. The three private sector airlines operate about 130 flights per week from Patna. Jet Airways has seven flights per day, IndiGo five flights per day and GoAir has three.
According to DGCA smaller aircraft such as turboprops don’t face any major issues, but very few such aircraft are operational over Indian skies now. Only Jet Airways possesses turboprops in its fleet.