PUNE The disruption of flights at Pune’s Lohegaon airport, owned by the Indian Air Force (IAF), to carry out runway resurfacing work has left flyers in the dark and at the receiving end. Many are still awaiting ticket refunds of cancelled flights. While plans for a new airport is yet to take off on the ground, what are the steps needed to ensure that the metropolitan city gets a dedicated civilian airport? Readers share their views…
Dedicated civilian airport a must
It is prudent to have a civil airport at Pune- both for operational as well as for security reasons. Civilians suffer when there is major maintenance work, military exercises and VIP movement. During such times, medical emergencies and urgent travellers suffer. The nearest airports are over 100 kilometres away. Detour costs both time and money. Defence airport left open to civilians is a big security risk. Most travellers don’t adhere to basic security guidelines, click pictures which is not in the best national interest. Considering global terrorism threats this can be avoided with a dedicated civilian airport.
Support domestic air connectivity
Pune definitely needs a civilian airport and the only way to do that is to shift the airforce station to a new location. Shifting the civilian airport to far off places like Purandar is not going to help the cause. So what we need is lateral thinking and the only viable solution is to shift the airforce base to Purandar. What we need in Pune is an airport that gives excellent domestic connectivity and a shuttle connection to Mumbai international airport. The shuttle – a small aircraft carrying 20-40 pax has to be as frequent as every 30-40 minutes and should be subsidised by the Mumbai international airport for passengers holding a ticket to a connecting flight. This shuttle will be a feeder shuttle for all international departures from Mumbai international airport and thus will give a boost to the international departures business. If this is done, I believe the Pune airport problem can be solved.
Fliers suffer due to airport closure
The airport renovation and expansion has been for so long been a demand of frequent flyer Puneites. The amenities and services, space everything needs to be expanded. Pune needs a bigger and dedicated civilian airport. Currently, due to the airport closure employees are taking flights from Mumbai instead of Pune and we have to bear the extra time and effort to travel to Mumbai.
Dedicated airport with better connectivity is the need of the hour
A new airport will take more than a decade to become operational. The city will grow multifold in the coming decade like IT, automobiles and now EV. We need a dedicated airport with better connectivity. As the government has more flights and airports under Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme, Pune needs the same. Many aspirational cities would want to connect with Pune airport. In the city, access roads connecting towards the airport need to be planned like better roads, artwork, beautification including..footpath and bicycle tracks. Multimodal transport connects like Metro, bus and local transport. Mumbai airport connects through a chopper or direct flight to establish a connection with international flights. These points need to be thought through by officials.
Development and growth of the city should not be impacted
Pune is one of the fastest developing cities, and needs infrastructure planning on the same gear, to ensure the momentum of growth is not impacted. As Pune’s Lohegaon airport is owned by the Indian Air Force (IAF) there are strict rules that fliers have to follow. It is high time we now get a world-class civilian airport, one that is welcoming to the tourists. Not one where even if you wanna take a selfie, you are cautioned.
Move air station to an isolated area
In my opinion, the air force station has to be taken away from the highly densely populated area of Lohegaon. When it was built decades ago, this was in the outer fringes of the city then – which is how air defence installations should be. Instead of moving the civil air station to a new location, the air station should be moved to an isolated area. The air force station is a family station and comes packed with all facilities to act as a self-contained ecosystem. Whereas the civil population and the support staff will have to commute daily this huge distance to the proposed new airport creating a huge daily fuel bill.
If you factor in the risk of coming in the range of any enemy airstrike in the event of a war, the Lohegaon base would be a prized target for enemy forces. Airstrike in such a densely populated city brings with it the huge human cost possibility in the event of a war.
Shutting airstrip altogether or for a certain time period happens everywhere for recarpeting. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) had done this exercise a few years back. This cannot be a reason to argue in favour of or against the prudence of having a combined civil-air force station.
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