Today, Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Ltd (BAPL), developer of the airport city at Andal near Durgapur signed the first MoU with an aviation company, which many feels is a landmark step towards the completion of the greenfield airport at Andal, the work of which began during left rule in spite land acquisition protest by Trinamool Congress. However, the main airport and the allied airport city is still some distanece away as clearance for the airport from Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is pending due to high tension lines running diagonally through runway.
Helicopter services operator Pawan Hans and BAPL signed the pact at the state secretariat, in presence of the chief minister, Mamat Banerjee clearing the skies for the first commercial flight between the steel town of Durgapur and Behala in Kolkata.
Pawan Hans, that conducted a test flight last month, is expected to start operations within a month of signing the MoU. Since the company can operate up to seven charters a month, BAPL is eyeing pacts with other helicopter operators, including Prayag Aviation, so that there is a flight every alternate day.
With regard to the proposed operations, if everything goes to plan, the chopper services between the two major cities of Bengal, Kolkata and Durgapur would be up and running by next week,” said Sanjay Kumar, general manager (marketing) of Pawan Hans.
Although there’s yet no official word on the fares, sources said a one-way ticket could cost about Rs 4000 per head.
However, sources said the Aerotropolis has the requisite infrastructure to make the next grade and launch passenger flights from its strip. BAPL officials said pacts with airlines that operate scheduled flights will happen closer to the commissioning date. While helicopter services can begin now, flight operators with fixed wing aircraft can start only after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation issues a license to the airport. And that can happen once high tension power lines that run diagonally over runway are removed.
L&T has been handed the contract to divert the lines through an underground duct; but the work hasn’t begun yet, raising doubts over commissioning date. The Aerotropolis, billed as a first-of-its-kind Greenfield airport, has already missed a few deadlines with regard to the launch of flight services. The last deadline missed was on Poila Boisakh (Bengali New Year).
The runway will be ready by October, office and ATC by August-end and passenger terminal by September. However, we have to wait till the high tension lines are removed to apply for license,” a BAPL source said. The licensing process is expected to take three months.
According to industry sources, Air India, SpiceJet and Air Costa have responded positively to flight services to the private airport. While Air India may consider 68-seater CRJ flights from Durgapur to Delhi six days a week, SpiceJet that is buying Bombardier aircraft may set up maintenance and repair operation (MRO) at the airport after three-four Bombardier planes are stationed in the east. Air Costa is open to flights subject to sops from the airport operator.