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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Heavy rain damages Goa airport runway, maintenance hours to be extended

The Navy, which controls Goa airport as it serves dual purpose of being a Navy air base as well as a civilian airport, has however said that disruptions will remain minimal.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2019 15:44 IST
Gerard de Souza
Gerard de Souza
Hindustan Times, Panaji
The Goa airport witnesses congestion and jostle for parking bays between various operators.
The Goa airport witnesses congestion and jostle for parking bays between various operators.(HT File Photo)

Heavy rain damaged the runway at Goa airport and it will be closed or six hours every Saturday beginning November 2 to to prevent its deterioration, the Indian Navy has said.

The Navy, which controls Goa airport as it serves dual purpose of being an air base as well as a civilian airport, has said that disruptions will remain minimal.

“The excessively heavy monsoon has adversely affected the runway surface. The requirement to have a minimum of six hours is necessary in Goa to prevent deterioration of runway surface,” the Navy said.

The Navy said non-availability of six hours maintenance slot will lead to faster deterioration of the runway which had been resurfaced just four years ago.

The decision left tour operators worried as the closure coincides with the beginning of Goa’s tourism season when the airport witnesses increased traffic on account of charter flights flying in from Europe.

The Navy though sought to allay such fears. “The proposed maintenance affects only one flight of charter operator Thomson Airways from the UK. The operator was offered additional slots to cater for their requirements and it was accepted,” the Navy said.

Goa’s lone airport is shared with the Naval base INS Hans and the Airports Authority of India. While the Navy handles air traffic, the AAI manages the passenger terminal. The Navy base is also home to the MiG 29K fighter aircraft, assigned to the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier stationed at nearby Karwar in coastal Karnataka.

The airport is reserved for military flying slots and is shut for civilian traffic everyday between 7:30am and 12:30 pm to allow for naval exercises. This leads to a rush of civilian flights between 12.30-3.30 pm with 60 percent of the flights landing during this period.

In the tourism season, the airport also handles chartered aircraft from Europe. Goa witnessed 813 charter flights arriving in the state between October 2018 and May 2019 bringing in 2.18 lakh foreign tourists. Owing to a lone runway and limited parking bays, the Goa airport witnesses congestion and battles for parking bays between various operators.

The Airport Authority of India has also commissioned the construction of a parallel taxi track to allow aircraft to save time instead of using the runway for taxiing and keeping it occupied. The taxi track is to be readied this year and is expected to increase the capacity of the airport by 50%.

The Goa government has set the ball rolling on a second wholly civilian airport at Mopa in Goa’s northernmost taluka of Pernem. in a bid to boost tourism. However, the Rs 3,000-crore airport, the first phase of which was to complete this year, is stuck in legal hurdles after the Supreme Court directed GMR Infrastructure, the company selected to build and operate the airport, to maintain status quo on the site after questions were asked about the manner in which the environmental clearances were granted.

“This is the second time within two or three years that the runway is in need of repairs. It is definitely an issue of the quality of work being done. We cannot have the surface runway which is supposed to at least five years deteriorating so fast. It has become like a regular government built road that goes every few years,” Savio Messias the Chairman of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa said.

The Goa Airport runway has been closed for repairs in 2013, 2015 and 2018. The Goa airport currently has a capacity of 3.5 million passengers per year which it plans to double to 7 million passengers per year through increasing parking bays and a parallel taxiway to allow faster turnaround times of aircraft.

First Published: Sep 11, 2019 18:21 IST