Calcutta, Jan. 23: The civil aviation ministry today unveiled a Rs 125-crore package to modernise Calcutta’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport.
Civil aviation minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said at the airport that the high points of the scheme included a CAT-II lighting system for planes to land and take off in fog and development of the international cargo complex, runways and international departure wings.
CAT-II lights are urgently needed in view of the losses running into lakhs of rupees incurred by the airport and airlines because of delayed and cancelled flights due to fog.
Nearly 40 international flights operate through Calcutta airport every week and 20 domestic flights daily.
Unveiling a statue of Subhas Chandra Bose in the domestic lounge of the airport, Hussain said many foreign airlines want to operate from Calcutta and have sought landing rights. “I am committed to developing Calcutta airport,” he added.
Referring to the process of privatisation of airports, he said: “We are working out different approaches. But we will have to modernise Calcutta airport regardless of what transpires.”
A senior official of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said: “The CAT-II lighting system means special lights will be set up in a row on the centre-line of the runway so that pilots can easily identify the runway even in foggy weather. With CAT-II, landing will be easier in winter.”
Officials said Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport has CAT-III landing facility. “However, CAT-III is more expensive and Delhi goes through far more severe foggy conditions than Calcutta. In Delhi, fog persists for more than three months,” an official said.
Airport officials said that apart from strengthening the main runway, there are plans for a secondary runway. “However, a mosque built in the area meant for the secondary runway is the main obstacle,” one of them said.
Asked if the mosque would be shifted, the minister said it was the state government’s responsibility. “I will speak to the chief minister,” Hussain said.
“We have time and again proposed to build a separate mosque with the same bricks outside the perimeter (of the airport) without success,” said a senior official.