The flip-flop over the future of flight operations at the Juhu airport is likely to end with a meeting between senior state government officials and a delegation from the civil aviation ministry next week.
Sources said that the meeting on April 5 could not only end speculation over the shutdown of one of the runways and concerns over chopper operations, but could re-visit the long pending expansion plans for the airfield.
“According to the tentative agenda, the officials will first survey the airfield followed by a comprehensive discussion in developing the airstrip into a fully functional airport for scheduled air traffic,” said a senior Juhu airport official, requesting anonymity.
Maharashtra chief secretary Jayant Banthia and the senior-most official in the civil aviation ministry, KN Srivastav, will attend the meeting. Sources added that the meeting assumes importance considering that aviation minister Ajit Singh said at a trade summit recently that the Juhu airport might be used to decongest the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
“The Navi Mumbai airport will take time to be functional. Hence, the Juhu airport is the only option available to take some load off the Mumbai airport. We have asked the Maharashtra chief minister to explore options to augment the airstrip,” Ajit Singh told HT on Friday.
He added that the preliminary plan is to shift private jets out of the Mumbai airport to Juhu. “A report by KPMG stated that if smaller jets such as turboprops used by scheduled airlines are shifted to Juhu, it can decongest the Mumbai airport,” added Singh.
Ministry sources said the upcoming meeting is likely to focus on possibilities to extend an airstrip in Juhu into the sea, as the runway cannot be used owing to tall buildings in the neighbourhood. Officials will also discuss development of passenger terminals at Juhu. The proposed Versova-Bandra sea link might act as a hurdle for expansion plans, added sources.