Government for big overhaul of Airports with UDAN

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Guruprasad Mohapatra

The Government of India plans to revive 50 unserved and underserved airports under Regional Connectivity Scheme– UDAN. An efficient network of airports shall reduce barriers for development in the country, bringing opportunities to the hinterland. Guruprasad Mohapatra, Chairman, Airports Authority of India (AAI) shares this and much more in conversation with Shivani Tyagi of Elets News Network (ENN).

What role does AAI play in strengthening the aviation sector in the country?
The civil aviation is a sunrise sector of growth backed by favourable demographics, a rising middle-class population, high disposable incomes, and faster economic growth. Domestic air traffic in India is growing at about 20 per cent annually and international traffic at 10 per cent, providing huge employment. India is world’s seventh largest aviation market presently and is poised to be the third largest within a few years.
AAI, under the aegis of Ministry of Civil Aviation, has been actively involved for strengthening the aviation sector. The focus of AAI has been to develop airport infrastructure at par with the world standards. Consequently, AAI has completed modernisation of 61 airports in the country including two metro airports at Chennai and Kolkata. For a holistic growth of aviation in India, AAI is committed to develop airport infrastructure in all corners of the country including Tier-II and Tier-III cities. The aviation sector has further been boosted with unveiling of National Civil Aviation Policy and UDAN scheme to extend air transport to the masses at a reasonable price.

To provide requisite infrastructure, AAI has embarked upon infrastructure development plan with the outlay of Rs 20,500 crore in next five years which includes upgradation and expansion of existing airports, revival of non-operational airports, upgradation of Airport Navigation System (ANS) and the telecommunication infrastructure. Further, AAI will provide logistical and technical support to the State Governments for bringing up Greenfield Airports and operationalisation of their airports.

How has technology contributed to bring improvement in Airport Authority of India (AAI)?
Construction of modern state-of-the-art terminal buildings has been taken up with the provision of commonly used IT infrastructure with Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE), Common Use Self-Service Kiosks (CUSS) and overall integration of all systems through establishment of Airport Operational Control Centres (AOCC) at airports. Baggage Reconciliation System (BRS) for facilitating faster baggage handling and reconciliation at all major airports of AAI. Sensor controlled elevators, escalators, Passengers Boarding Bridges (PBBs) with Advanced Visual Docking Guidance System (AVDGS) and walkalators have been provided in the new terminal buildings to ease the passenger movement.
BMS controlled Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is being adopted in the terminal building to have better temperature control for comfort of passengers and for energy efficiency. In the recent past, we have implemented various state-of-the-art technology for CNS-ATM systems and advance ATM procedures to enhance safety, efficiency and reduce congestion in airspace across various airports and the entire Indian airspace.
Air traffic flow management has been introduced to balance the demand vis-à-vis the capacity so that the airport operates at optimum capacity throughout. India has become only the seventh country in the world to have this capability.

UDAN is an ambitious project where AAI is playing a pivotal role in connecting the remote as well as densely populated cities of the country. What has been your experience so far?
The airlines and airport operators are both working to make Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) successful. Twenty Seven proposals covering 128  RCS routes were awarded on 30th March, 2017 during the first round of bidding and Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the first flight on 27th April, 2017 from Shimla. Flights have now commenced from 13 RCS airports; Bhatinda, Gwalior, Kadapa, Kandla, Ludhiana, Mysore, Nanded, Pondicherry, Porbandar, Shimla,  Vidyanagar, Bikaner and Jaisalmer. 27 served airports, 12 underserved airports and 31 unserved airports (total of 70 airports) are to be connected under phase-I.
In the second round of bidding, a total of 141 proposals have been received to connect 126 airports/heliports.

What are the challenges AAI is facing during the implementation of UDAN and other projects in remote areas?
Challenges are multifold. UDAN scheme for regional air connectivity in the country encompasses airports owned not only by AAI but also airports owned by the Government of India, State Governments, Defence, CPSUs and private entities. AAI has lot of roles and responsibilities for implementing the scheme including provision and management of the enabling infrastructure for bidding by airlines, coordination with various stakeholders for making the airports ready for operations, providing assistance for meeting the mandatory regulatory requirements, doing the civil and electrical works at some of the airports on behalf of the airport operator, assistance for licensing of the airports and providing trainings for various activities like fire, security etc. The task is challenging but the results are encouraging.

What role is AAI playing in strengthening its relation with other countries?
AAI cooperates with various countries to extend the best facilities and services to the travelling passengers at par with the global standards. Several Memorandum of Understandings are in place with foreign players for sharing best practices, experiences, technology and training. AAI, under umbrella MoU of Government of India with USTDA (US Trade development Authority) has a MoU with M/s MITRE, for technical and managerial assistance in development of a technical R&D centre in ANS activities. AAI is also organising Air Navigation Service Provider Management Advanced Master Programme at Hyderabad which is a joint project of ENAC, French National Aviation University affiliate of DGAC, French Civil Aviation Authority and CATC, AAI (Airports Authority of India).Every year 50 officers will be trained under this programme.

What is your vision and plans for transforming and connecting the nation?
An efficient network of airports shall reduce barriers for development in the whole country and bring opportunities to the hinterland.
To achieve this, certain issues like land acquisition needs to be ironed out. The Government also need to streamline financial and tax related issues for growth of the MRO sector in India.

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