It seems the union government has switched to the election mode, as within a fortnight of the Prime Minister's announcing three low-cost airports in Punjab, a high-powered committee of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) has landed in the state to test the feasibility of four.
On Thursday, the four-member team led by joint general manager N Makhija arrived to check the economic and technical feasibility of constructing low-cost domestic airports in Patiala, Ferozepur, Jalandhar and Ludhiana. It did the aerial and ground survey in Patiala and Ferozepur and on Friday will move to the other two cities.
The Patiala airport was not on the first list to come out of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) but was included later because of its potential, as the city has a flying academy and runway already. Here, Makhija inspected the runway in detail to prepare his report.
The runway of 3,840 feet will have increase to a minimum of 5,000 feet for the landing of the ATR and similar-category aircraft. During the inspection, additional deputy commissioner APS Virk and municipal commissioner Gurpal Singh Chahal briefed the team.
After visiting Ludhiana and Jalandhar, the team will submit a final report to the aviation ministry. "The AAI team is impressed with the facilities at the Patiala strip, which can be turned into a domestic airport easily," said Makhija.
Before Patiala, the team visited Ferozepur for ground survey of the Fattuwala village airstrip that was used last in the 1971 war with Pakistan. In Ludhiana, team will examine the feasibility of expanding the Sahnewal airport and the proposal of the state government to make airport at Machhiwara.
On June 28, a high-powered committee led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had cleared three low-cost airports for Punjab. The state Congress projected it a major achievement of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and met the PM and party's national president Sonia Gandhi to get the projects on at the earliest to gain from it in the Lok Sabha elections.