Limited operations: New Delhi passes buck on airliners

Says Watch Hours extended up to 10 pm; ‘where are facilities,’ ask operators

The Government of India has blamed the airliners operating in J&K for not extending the operation hours at the Srinagar International Airport despite “clearance” from the Defense authorities.
“The watch hours at the Srinagar Airport have been extended up to 10 pm but no scheduled operator has approached Indian Air Force for night operations at Srinagar International Airport,” Union Civil Aviation Minister AGR Pusapati informed the Parliament in response to a question by Peoples Democratic Party MP, Tariq Hamid Karra.
J&K has four airfields – one each in Jammu and Leh, and two in Kashmir including the Srinagar International Airport. But all the airports are controlled by Indian Air Force.
At present, 31 flights arrive and take off from the Srinagar International Airport daily for different destinations including Jammu, New Delhi and Mumbai. However the operation hours for the commercial airliners are restricted from sunrise to sunset only.
“Out of 23 IAF joint user airfields, 20 airfields (including Srinagar) have adequate infrastructure for night landing by civil aircrafts and all airports under the control of the AAI where scheduled commercial flights operate including Srinagar International Airport are equipped with ground lighting facilities for night operations,” the Ministry has said.
Director Airport Srinagar, KS Rao, said though the operation hours at the airfield have been extended from 6 a.m to 10 p.m, the airliners, in normal circumstances, operate only from 7 a.m to 5:50 p.m. “The 10-km funnel (landing area of the airport) remains guarded from sunrise to sunset only. This area is vulnerable to attacks and hence the operations don’t go beyond sunset,” Rao said.    
Head of the Airliners Operations Association, Khursheed Ahmad, said the authorities should first ensure proper security of the funnel to allow the commercial airliners to increase operation hours.
Besides, Ahmad said there were no approach lights installed at the airport.
“We have been fighting for these facilities for a long time,” he said. “If the authorities set up these facilities, the airliners will write to authorities concerned for increasing watch hours.”
The limited operation hours on the Srinagar Airport continues to affect normal life apart from hitting the tourism industry. In absence of the increase in the air traffic to and from Srinagar Airport, every year scores of students and patients going outside for studies/treatment suffer. The limited air traffic to Srinagar also hits tourism sector badly every year as rush of the tourists to Kashmir during peak season result in increase in air fare.
Tariq Hamid Karra, who is also the head of the Airport Advisory Committee, has asked DC Budgam and SSP of the central district to take up the issue of installation of the approach lights with the Air Force authorities. Chairing the Committee meeting on Saturday the PDP MP said he would also take up the issue of starting international flights at the Srinagar Airport with the Government of India.

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