Monday, January 11, 2016

Old Airport Smartens Up, Lets Pilots Practice

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is exploring various avenues to keep its airport in the heart of the city operationally efficient, especially after the recent High Court order ending any hopes of its reopening for civil flights.

Many private airlines have started using the infrastructure to train their pilots, while the defense PSU is also exploring the possibility of setting up aircraft maintenance, repair and  overhaul (MRO) facilities.

The once busy airport in the heart of the city was closed for civil flights in May 2008 when the new airport in Devanahalli commenced operations.

A PIL challenging the agreement between the Civil Aviation Ministry and private operators that led to closure of the HAL airport was dismissed by the High Court recently. The court refused to interfere in a policy decision.

“Private airlines, including Jet, IndiGo and Air Asia have recently started using the airport for training their pilots,” HAL Chairman and Managing Director T Suvarna Raju told Express.

“We are also exploring possibilities on MRO facilities. Our Bangalore Complex CEO is looking into it,” he said.

Airlines that pay charges per landing and take-off bring in some revenue for the PSU and also help keep the airport infrastructure, including the Air Traffic Control (ATC), operational.

Currently, the airport is used for conducting test flights by HAL, IAF and DRDO. Many VVIP flights including those of the President and the Prime Minister, apart from chartered aircrafts, land here. Private airlines training sorties are slotted between the test flights.

“Airlines train their pilots in landing and take-off. Besides the revenue it brings in, it helps keep the airport, which is a national asset, operationally efficient,” Raju said.

Air Pegasus Managing Director Shyson Thomas told Express they have been training pilots there as the airport is affordable.

“The charges are much lower compared to other airports,” he added.

‘Faster to Train Here’

Among other airlines, Air Asia has also been using the HAL airport to train its pilots over the past six months.

“Our focus has always been on safety and quality training, despite the cost. We are helping our pilots practice on empty aircraft at HAL to complete Base Training requirements,” Air Asia India spokesperson told Express.

According to her, it is faster to train pilots at HAL airport. Kempegowda International Airport is busy and because of that, they do not permit training at times. Sometimes, there is a delay in finishing training that leads to extra fuel burn and the cost goes up, she added.

‘Can Approach Govt Again’

On the High Court order that almost ended any hopes on reopening of the HAL airport for commercial operations, the HAL chairman said, “I think we can approach the government again.”

The PIL was filed in 2008 by Airport Authority of India Employees Union and Association of Outsourcing Professionals.

Infrastructure Put to Better Use
  • Airport used by airlines to train pilots
  • HAL exploring possibilities on setting up repair facilities
  • Airport with 1.3 km runway closed in May 2008
  • Chartered aircraft, VVIP flights operate from the airport
  • IAF, DRDO to use it  for conducting test flights 
Original article can be found here: http://www.newindianexpress.com

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