Bihta blips on new airport radar - AAI takes up infrastructure-related issues with air force & govt

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By Anand Raj
  • Published 11.03.15

Patna, March 10: Airports Authority of India (AAI) has proposed to develop the Indian Air Force (IAF) airstrip at Bihta as the new airport for international operations.

The AAI, entrusted with creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure in the country, has also taken up the matter with the ministry of defence and the state government in this regard.

The authority has requested the state government to provide additional land of 600 acres for phase-I and 790 acres for phase-II for the proposed airport.

Minister of state for civil aviation Mahesh Sharma disclosed this in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.

Besides, the AAI has also prepared masterplans for the development of the Raxaul and Muzaffarpur airstrips and requested the state government to provide additional land, remove obstructions and set up diversion of road in the approach funnel.

There are a total of 28 airstrips/aerodromes in the state, out of which five airports - Gaya, Patna, Jogbani (Araria), Muzaffarpur and Raxaul - are owned by the AAI. Among these, Patna and Gaya airports are operational.

A senior official in the cabinet secretariat department, the nodal agency for civil aviation in the state, said: "This is very good news for the civil aviation sector in the state keeping in mind the phenomenal increase in the numbers of flights and footfall at Patna airport in recent years. We were looking for a site to develop a big airport as an alternative to the existing airport in the state capital."

The Bihta air force base, around 40km southwest of Patna, is rarely used and has a longer runway of 2,449m (7,970ft approx.) in comparison to Patna airport whose runway length is 2,286m (7,500ft approx). Due to obstacles in the approach funnel, pilots can use just 1,820m (5,970ft approx) at Patna.

Asked about the land, the official said the state government would be happy to give land as it is feasible to do so. "The runway at Bihta can be expanded," sources said.

Another official explained that Bihta could be developed as a "civil enclave" on the lines of airports at Bagdogra, Visakhapatnam and Goa. Civil enclave is an area allotted at an airport belonging to the armed forces for the usage of civil aircraft and civil aviation-related services. "It is a win-win situation for both the state government and defence," a source said.

The state government had suggested an airport either at Bihta (Patna) or Silao (Nalanda) as an alternative to the existing one in Patna.

Water resources department minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary said he had raised the issue of development of a new big airport as an alternative to the existing Patna airport during a national conference on draft civil aviation policy in Delhi on December 30, 2014.