Three months after the international airport was inaugurated with much fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 11, Chandigarh still awaits aerial connectivity with any of the foreign country.
Sources in the Airport Authority of India said the foggy winters were not a good time to introduce international flights, not at least till Indian Air Force (IAF) installs CAT-III (Category-III) instrument landing system to enable landing of aircrafts in poor visibility.
An official at the Chandigarh International Airport, on condition of anonymity, said, “There is a perception that clearance from the ministry of defence (MOD) to run international flights is difficult to acquire. So, airlines are not applying.”
When this correspondent asked the officials what was stopping them from introducing the international flights, they said, “Nothing is stopping us. For starting international flights, a number of factors has to be taken care of, such as relations with the countries, seat allotment by the government, route approvals, slot in foreign airports, market surveys of airlines and availability of aircrafts with airlines.”
The officials said that the airport was ready and airlines were doing market surveys to assess the viability of international flights and the preferred countries. They said that for the time being, the airport is open from 6am to 8pm and if any airline desired to introduce an international flight during this time, it would get it.
Chief executive officer of the Chandigarh International Airport Sunil Dutt said, “Once the CAT-III instrument landing system is in place, chances of international flights will go up considerably. We are looking forward to the international flights once the foggy conditions subsided.”
Now, domestic flights can take off after 8pm
Meanwhile, bringing relief to many tricity residents, the defence ministry has approved the extension of watch hours at the airport for all the domestic flights. From now on, all the flights from Chandigarh to other destinations will be free to take off after 8pm as well.
Secretary, civil aviation (Punjab) Vishwajeet Khanna confirmed that the defence ministry had recently written to the Punjab chief minister stating that the airlines wishing to introduce flights after 8pm be allowed. The authorities have circulated the notice to the Airport Authority of India in this regard.
Till date, the civil aircraft operations in Chandigarh were allowed from sunrise to 8pm only.
Khanna said, “We have received in writing that watch hours will never be an issue anymore. The airlines can apply for starting flights even after the existing watch hours. We have requested the IAF to provide us Category-III instrument landing system at earliest.”
Instrument Landing System (ILS)
Instrument landing system (ILS) is a ground-based instrument approach system that provides precision lateral and vertical guidance to an aircraft approaching and landing on a runway, using a combination of radio signals and, in many cases, high-intensity lighting arrays to enable a safe landing during adverse meteorological conditions, such as low visibility due to fog, rain, or snow. The instruments are categorised as CAT-I, II , III-A, III-B and III-C, with the last enabling the aircrafts to land even in zero visibility. The Chandigarh airport is awaiting installation of CAT-III instrument landing system.