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Countdown for take-off
Trial for terminal, feel-good for fliers

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 8: Eighteen passengers of a flight that landed here from Port Blair had the surprise of their lives today.

Smiling hostesses greeted them with folded hands, smeared sandalwood tikas on their foreheads and sprinkled rice grains on their heads, making each one of the passengers feel like warriors returned after winning a battle.

These 18 were the chosen ones to land at the newly built domestic terminal of Biju Patnaik Airport, which had its trial run today.

For Gouranga Charan Penthoi, 61, a retired banker from Cuttack, it was the happiest moment of his life in air travel when he touched down at the city airport on the Port Blair-Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Air India flight. Passengers of the 40-seater plane came out of the airport through the newly built domestic terminal, which went through a trial run today.

“I have seen the terminals in Bangalore, Hyderabad and New Delhi and have always thought that Odisha should have one like them. Neither the Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials nor the Air India crew in the plane gave us any hint of what awaited us at the airport. So, when we were given a grand welcome upon arrival, we were overwhelmed,” said Penthoi.

He voiced the hope that the state’s lone domestic airport would also get its international status soon. “After today, the plan for international status seems probable.”

Minati Choudhury, 53, who also came from Port Blair after a vacation, said: “The new look of the domestic terminal, which welcomed its first flight today, will definitely contribute towards the promotion of tourism in the region. As the Odisha government goes all out to endorse the state’s Buddhist destinations across the continent, the new terminal, hopefully, will add to tourist satisfaction.”

Officials of the AAI, however, admitted that some major attractions for the new terminal, such as two aerobridges, were yet to come from its manufacturers. “Aerobridges are not manufactured in India. The AAI management in New Delhi has to make the provisions for their supply. Once they are imported and made available here, they will be fitted. The rest of the links such as the lifts and escalators are already here and ready to roll,” said airport director Sharad Kumar.

The airport’s general manager (engineering operations), Anil Pathak, said that while constructing the new terminal, the emphasis has been on minimising energy consumption. “Within six months we are going to install a 100KW solar power plant with a solar panels which can be upgraded to 400KW in future. Likewise, the building is fitted with six rainwater harvesting tanks and a sewerage treatment plant,” he said.

To provide easy and swifter service, there will be 18 check-in-counters. Two VIP lounges are also on the anvil and three conveyor belts, each 250ft in length, have been installed for faster clearance of baggage.

Airport officials said that sculptures in khandolite stone and crafts such as pattachitra have been incorporated at the new terminal building under the guidance of eminent artist Dinanath Pathy.