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Indian Air Force okays use of Hindon air base as Delhi airport backup

The air force station is located in Ghaziabad and will soon host a civilian enclave, aviation secretary RN Chaubey said.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2017 23:55 IST
Tarun Shukla
Tarun Shukla
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Indian Air Force,Hindon air base,Delhi airport
Army personnel board an Indian Air Force aircraft at Hindon Air Force Station in Ghaziabad.(AFP file)

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has agreed to allow the Hindon Air Force Station to be used for regional flights during winters to back up the congested Delhi Airport, aviation secretary RN Chaubey said on Wednesday at an aviation conference.

The air force station is located in Ghaziabad and will soon host a civilian enclave, Chaubey said adding that talks were on with GMR Infrastructure Ltd-controlled Delhi Airport to seek approval.

No airport is allowed operations within 150km of Delhi airport, according to a privatisation contract. Chaubey said he was hopeful GMR will agree. “We have had conversations with them,” he said.

The ministry is not looking at opening the old Hyderabad airport and the HAL airport in Bangalore as the new airports there are not congested.

The ministry, Chaubey said, would act on requests from airlines if they want to use a defence air field and the matter would be taken up with the defence ministry.

Air Force Station Hindon, located near Delhi, is a single runway base and is home to Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft that forms the backbone of the heavy air lift division of the Indian Air Force. Google maps show 5 Globemasters stationed at the base together with four turboprop planes and one helicopter.

The C-17 is capable of strategic delivery of up to 170,900 pounds of personnel and/or equipment to main operating bases or forward operating locations especially on short runways like those in Ladakh, near the Chinese border.

“There are major airports like Pune and Goa, which have civilian flights. They coexist,” said Deba Mohanty, head of New Delhi-based Indike Analytics, a research firm on defence and strategic affairs.

Chaubey said no new slots would be given at Mumbai airport in the winter season as it was already congested for the second round of UDAN, the government’s flagship regional flying scheme.

UDAN or Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik, which loosely translates to “let the common man fly”, proposes that at least half the seats on every flight should have a fare cap of Rs2,500 per seat per hour of flying.

Five airlines, including Air India, SpiceJet, Turbo Megha, Air Odisha and Air Deccan, were allotted 128 routes to fly in the first round by March, but only 16 routes have been operationalised so far.

The civil aviation ministry last week said it had relaxed the norms for UDAN to allow for greater connectivity.

The relaxations include dilution of the exclusivity clause mandating that only one airline can fly on one route in the initial years. The norms that restricted two airports in close proximity from participating in the bidding have also been relaxed.

IndiGo has announced it plans to buy 50 ATR planes, while SpiceJet has also signed a letter of intent to buy 50 Bombardier Q400 regional planes.

Air India and SpiceJet have the biggest fleet of regional planes under this scheme. Jet Airways too flies on regional routes but did not participate in the first auction round for UDAN routes.

First Published: Aug 30, 2017 21:17 IST