For nearly half a century, not a single commercial flight has landed or taken off from the Safdarjung airport. Now, the airport is being reinvented as a giant parking lot.
Once home to Dakota and Cessna aircraft, the capital’s first airport will now accommodate cars and buses for the Commonwealth Games to be held in October.
The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) is building a park-and-ride facility here and is beautifying the airstrip in consultation with the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which owns the airport.
People visiting the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, one of the Games venues, will be able to park their vehicles here and board a bus to the stadium.
Till just a few years ago, motorists driving on the Safdarjung flyover would slow down their cars to watch small aircraft and gliders land on the airstrip.
Now, all they can see is construction work going on at a war footing to build the huge parking lot before the games.
The parking lot will be spread over 1.65 lakh square metres and will accommodate 3,000 cars, 600 buses and a few hundred two wheelers.
“The parking will be open to visitors for the Commonwealth Games, who will park their vehicles here and take a bus to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and back,” said Ramesh Raina, NDMC’s Chief Engineer.
“We are cementing the whole surface and covering it with ‘Pavers’,” he said. “Once the Games are over, these pavers will be taken out and reused elsewhere,” he said.
NDMC will also build public conveniences, resting sheds, booths for security checks and other facilities here. After the Games, the whole parking area and other temporary utility structures will be razed and the NDMC will restore the airport back to its original state.
The Safdarjung airport, earlier called the Willingdon airport, was built more than 80 years ago and was in use till the 1960s.
The airstrip, however, was not big enough to accommodate Jet planes and the Palam airport became the city’s main airport.
The runway was being used by the Delhi Flying Club for small planes, but after 9/11, all such flights from the airport were banned due to security reasons. The airport has been lying idle since then and is only used for VIP helicopters.