Wings for Darbhanga

SpiceJet has bagged the bid to start civilian flights from Darbhanga airport, around 150km northeast of the state capital. It pipped IndiGo to clinch the deal and will fly from the northeastern Bihar city to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

By Dev Raj in Patna
  • Published 28.01.18
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Patna: SpiceJet has bagged the bid to start civilian flights from Darbhanga airport, around 150km northeast of the state capital. It pipped IndiGo to clinch the deal and will fly from the northeastern Bihar city to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

"The Centre has finalised SpiceJet's bid to start civilian passenger flights to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The flights could start within six months and will benefit people of the Mithila region, who are either settled or work in these three metropolitan cities in large numbers," deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi told The Telegraph.

Sushil had met civil aviation secretary R.N. Choubey and senior Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials at Bihar Bhavan in New Delhi late on January 16 to discuss various issues pertaining to airports and flights in Bihar.

"At present, civilian flight operations from Darbhanga will see the use of ATR or similar smaller aircraft, as the length of the airstrip is inadequate for bigger aircraft," the deputy chief minister said.

Darbhanga has a full-fledged air force base from where fighter and other military aircraft operate.

The runway length is over 9,000 feet.

Though smaller passenger aircraft can easily operate from it, bigger aircraft like the Airbus 319 and 320 or Boeing aircraft need a runway of at least 9,500 feet for safe landing and take-off.

However, the flights will start once the air force airport at Darbhanga is made fit for civilian operations, which would need infrastructure, including a separate air traffic control (ATC) tower and movement area for passengers.

Seeing the present condition of infrastructure at Darbhanga airport, an AAI source said it could take up to eight months before civilian operations can start there.

However, the people of the city, which was once the seat of power in the erstwhile Darbhanga state, and had its own airlines in the 1950s and the 1960s, will in all probability be able to fly to far-off destinations from this calendar year itself.

Making Darbhanga airport operational for civilian flights under the Centre's UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) scheme to develop regional airports and flight connectivity was among the issues discussed at the meeting in Delhi.

Under the UDAN scheme to make flying affordable for the masses, airfares have been capped at Rs 2,500 per seat per hour. AAI, which has allocated Rs 200 crore in the current financial year 2017-18, will fund the scheme partially and is expected to increase the funding from the next fiscal year.