The modernisation of airports within the country is progressing rapidly, with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) now engaged in enhancing the infrastructure of several airports around the country. These efforts complement initiatives such as Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) - UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik), driving air traffic to regional destinations and the Krishi Udan scheme, which assists farmers in transporting agriculture produce and aiding in the growth of the cargo sector.
The most recent airport to become operational is Deoghar in Jharkhand, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated in July. Spread over 654 acres, the airport was developed by Deoghar Airport Ltd (a Joint Venture Company of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) & Government of Jharkhand) in collaboration with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at an estimated cost of INR 400 crore. At present, the terminal building can accommodate 300 passengers during peak hours and has been designed for an annual passenger handling capacity of 500,000 passengers. The airport’s 2,500m long runway can accommodate Airbus A320 Family and Boeing’s 737 Family jetliners.
Airports in India are now also being designed/upgraded by AAI, with a growing focus on sustainability, and this is evident at Deoghar Airport, which will have a solar power plant capable of generating nearly 1,000 KWp. The first phase of the project, which has already been commissioned, has a capacity of 380KWp, and according to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), work is already in progress to add 600KWp, which will enable the entire airport to run on solar energy.
In August, AAI announced that Bhubaneswar Airport in Orissa would be the first airport in the country to have an indigenous, cost-effective, and environment-friendly Air Traffic Management (ATM) system. State-owned electronics giant Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) will supply the ATM system. The terminal building of the airport is also energy efficient, and a 4MW solar power plant has already been installed.
The upgradation of airport infrastructure is vital if passenger traffic is to grow seamlessly in the years to come, and towards this end, AAI is investing in upgrading existing airports and setting-up new Greenfield airports. “The upgradation/modernisation of airports is a continuous process and is undertaken by AAI and other airport operators from time to time depending on the availability of land, commercial viability, socio- economic considerations, traffic demand / willingness of airlines to operate to/from such airports etc.,” the Minister of State for Civil Aviation Gen (Dr) VK Singh recently told Parliament.
The Biju Patnaik airport in Bhubaneswar has now been upgraded with new parallel taxi tracks and apron (Phase-1), a new control tower and a technical block built at INR 100 crore. A link building is also being constructed between Terminal-1 and Terminal-2 for integrated operations at INR 87 crore. The work is expected to be completed in December.
AAI is upgrading airports at Patna, Darbhanga and Gaya at an estimated cost of INR 1,217 crore, INR 112.4 crore and INR 26.5 crore, respectively. Bihar Government has handed over 108 acres of land to AAI to develop a Civil Enclave at Bihta Airport. However, AAI is also looking to develop the airport to accommodate widebody aircraft for international operations.
Andhra Pradesh is one of the major beneficiaries of AAI’s airport modernisation spree. Five of its existing airports, namely Vijayawada, Tirupati, Rajahmundry, Vizag and Kadapa, have been upgraded in the last five years, and a new Greenfield airport at Orvakal (Kurnool) was made operational in 2021. These initiatives have increased these airports’ total passenger handling capacity to around ten Million Passengers Per Annum (MPPA).
The State Government undertook the construction of the Orvakal Greenfield airport at an estimated cost of INR 187 crore. AAI incurred an expenditure of INR 134 crore at Vijayawada airport, INR 131 crore at Tirupati airport, INR5 crore at Rajahmundry airport, INR 60 crore at Vizag airport and INR 55 crore at Kadapa airport in the process of their modernisation.
Madurai Airport in Tamil Nadu is also being upgraded, and AAI completed resurfacing of the airport’s existing runway 09/27 for the code-C type of aircraft and associated works at the cost of INR26 crore in May. According to codification by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), code-C type aircraft have a wingspan of 24 m but less than 36 m. The aircraft that fall under this classification are Boeing’s 737-700, Airbus A320 and Embraer’s ERJ 190-100.
Madurai Airport is also slated to receive a new ATC Tower cum Technical Block, which is slated to be ready by February 2024. AAI has also requested an additional 633 acres of land from the Tamil Nadu Government and has already been allotted 543 acres. This will enable the extension of the airport’s main runway to 3,810m from the existing 2,285m to cater for the operation of Code-E type of aircraft. This will allow the airport to accommodate widebody jetliners, such as Boeing’s 777/787 and Airbus’ A330. AAI will also upgrade the runway strip, apron, parallel taxi track, terminal building and cargo terminal to accommodate these aircraft, and the entire effort is expected to cost approximately INR 550 crore, including the construction cost of a new terminal building pegged at around INR 138 crore.
Tiruchirappalli Airport, Tamil Nadu’s second largest airport in terms of international passenger traffic and the third largest in total passenger traffic, is also being upgraded with a new integrated terminal that will allow it to cater for 3.63 million Passengers Per Annum (MPPA). This can further be enhanced in future to six MPPA.
The Krishi Udan scheme is now operational at 58 airports around the country. It aims to increase the value realisation of agri-produce by facilitating and incentivising their movement by air. All agri-produce, including horticulture, such as flowers, fishery, livestock and processed products, are covered under the Krishi Udan Scheme, which covered 28 airports in its first phase.
The Krishi Udan Scheme 2.0 was announced in October 2021 and was mainly focused on transporting perishable food products from the hilly areas, North-Eastern States, and tribal areas. For facilitating and incentivising movement of agri-produce by air. The 2.0 scheme focuses primarily on 25 airports in the North Eastern, hilly and tribal regions, and five more airports have now been added.