Airport Authority of India to downsize Patna ‘Clock Tower’ | patna | Hindustan Times
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Airport Authority of India to downsize Patna ‘Clock Tower’

The tall structure of the majestic state secretariat building — a hallmark of the state capital — is at risk of losing its identity. That’s not all. Some 3,700-plus trees in the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, a protected forest, falling in the approach funnel of aircraft, also need to be lopped off.

patna Updated: Aug 22, 2010 17:57 IST
Ruchir Kumar

The tall structure of the majestic state secretariat building — a hallmark of the state capital — is at risk of losing its identity.

While to most the ‘Clock Tower’ — a magnificent architectural wonder of the British period — is a resplendent city feature, to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) it is an encumberance, which has to be downsized by 30-35 feet if operation of wide-bodied aircraft without load restriction has to begin at its present location.

That’s not all. Some 3,700-plus trees in the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, a protected forest, falling in the approach funnel of aircraft, also need to be lopped off.

There is more. The AAI has also requested the state government to consider providing it 111 acres (approx) of additional land required for extension of the runway towards western side to carve out the needed 9000 feet tarmac length for operation of wide-bodied aircraft.

The total usable runway length of Patna airport is 6409 feet. However, because of obstructions — trees and the secretariat tower on the one end and the railway cabin on the other — the landing distance available for aircraft on runway 025 (zoo side) is 5,971.12 feet and 5,501.96 feet on runway 007 (Phulwarisharif side). In technical parlance, the ‘threshold displacement’ because of the obstructions is 439 feet on runway 025 and 908 feet on runway 07.

However, it is not the additional land, which will solve the problem. In fact, the rerouting of link road to NH 31 and diversion of railway track on the western end of airport are prerequisites for this purpose and the AAI wants the state government to take up this issue with the Centre in the interest of upgrading the Jaiprakash Narayan International (JPNI) airport in Patna.

Besides, the AAI has also requested for 48 acres of land adjacent to the existing terminal building on the western side for developing a new integrated terminal building. It also wants another 68 acres of poultry farmland on southern side falling between the airport boundary and the railway track for construction of a modern fire station with an isolation bay for aircraft.

The state government may perceive these as one demand too many from the AAI, but the request comes in the backdrop of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) dubbing Patna as the ‘most critical’ airport after a safety audit survey of airports in the aftermath of the May 22 Mangalore air crash.

So, what are the other options available before the state government?

Well, the state government has the option to shift the airport to Bihta, which the AAI has recommended; construct a new Greenfield airport at Nalanda (proposed site between Harnaut and Biharsharif — a distance of 60 km from Patna) or shift it to Gaya, which the Chief Minister had recently suggested, given the fact that it already boasts of an international airport.

The AAI and the Civil Aviation Department officials of the state government feel, that the best option of an alternate to Patna airport would be Bihta because of the proximity (27 kms) of the existing Bihta Airforce Station with Patna and availability of land for runway extension. “With no major obstructions in the area in extension of runway and approach funnels, the basic infrastructure, such as existing runway and parallel taxiway with all other support infrastructure, is available and can be augumented,” said a senior AAI officer requesting anonymity.

However, the state government is dithering on the issue, as indications from those in top echelons of power are that Nalanda be developed as an alternate to Patna airport. The reason, as sources point out, is more political than of public convenience or operational.

The CAD, which had sent its recommendation for Bihta to the Chief Minister more than a month back, is now awaiting the latter’s concurrence.