A defunct airstrip in Kalyan, an eastern suburb about 60 km from South Mumbai could become the city’s third airport, albeit for short flights — mostly within Maharashtra.
On Wednesday, the unused facility from the World War II surfaced at a discussion between state aviation minister Jayant Sinha and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
“We want to develop the Kalyan airstrip under the regional air connectivity scheme,” Fadnavis told HT, adding that the state will talk with the defence ministry which owns the land.
Under the regional connectivity scheme named UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik), the ministry is planning to revamp India’s ghost airports. Records indicate that there could be more than two dozen unused airstrips.
Last week the government invited bids from airlines willing to operate short distance flights (up to 500 km) at fares not exceeding Rs2,500 for an hour of flying under the scheme. Unlike the Juhu aerodrome, which requires extension of the runway and resolve some licencing issues to be utilised under the scheme, the 1,700-feet long Kalyan airstrip had less development hurdles, said ministry sources.
But industry observers said the option to develop the Kalyan facility has surfaced and forgotten more than once in the last decade. It first came up as an alternative to the yet to start Navi Mumbai airport but the Praful Patel ministry dismissed the idea.Then it surfaced again when a local municipal councillor wrote to the civil aviation secretary about its advantages over the Panvel airport but the proposal got shot down again. It returned to the drawing board in August following an aerial survey of the airstrip by civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju.