Time to put Mangalore airport on the radar screen

A. J. Vinayak | Updated on May 22, 2011 Published on May 22, 2011

The new integrated terminal building at Mangalore airport

It is imperative that the authorities look into the infrastructure issues in and around Mangalore airport.

Mangalore witnessed two major aviation-related developments in May 2010. The first was the inauguration of the Rs 180-crore integrated terminal building at the airport on May 15, and the second was the crash of Dubai-Mangalore flight IX-812 — exactly a week after the inauguration — on May 22. As many as 158 persons were killed and eight survived.

Many promises were made on both the occasions by ministers and officials. Among the promises were extending the runway length by 1,000 ft so as to handle bigger aircraft and getting international status for Mangalore airport. Currently, Mangalore has the status of a Customs aerodrome, with permission to operate flights to international destinations in West Asia. The current length of the runway is 8,037 ft.

The then Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Praful Patel, had promised the extension of runway at the time of the inauguration of the terminal. He reiterated this point on the day of crash at the airport. However, that promise is yet to materialise. The problem with the extension is the acquisition of 250 acres and filling up of a valley to an average height of 45 metres. Rough estimates suggest that at least Rs 200 crore is required for this purpose.

Special purpose vehicle

Keeping this need in mind, the Kuwait-based United Associations of Karnataka (an NRI forum) had suggested the floating of a special purpose vehicle with involvement of all stakeholders. According to that forum, such a move will help develop airport infrastructure, and will also help develop tourism and industry in and around the region.

A decision on this matter is yet to be taken.Though the Karnataka Budget for 2011-12 has sanctioned Rs 15 crore for the runway extension work, people in the civil aviation sector say that this amount is too meagre for the project.

The Chairman of Airports Authority of India, Mr V.P. Agarwal, who was in Mangalore at the time of the inauguration of the terminal, had said that AAI was planning investments in a parallel taxiway, and the new air traffic control-cum-technical block at the airport. It is learnt that the short listing of contractors has been done for the construction of the technical block at a cost of Rs 26 crore, and a final bid will be called in this regard soon.


The Mangalore-based Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry had mooted a proposal to put the old terminal at Bajpe into effective use, and had sought the establishment of an air cargo complex there. The President of KCCI, Mr Mohandas Prabhu, had said at that time that the infrastructure at the old terminal building is lying idle after the commissioning of the new integrated terminal building in Mangalore.

The argument of KCCI is that an air cargo complex will help explore export and import potential of commodities such as vegetables and fruits, processed food, chilled items, machineries and garments from Mangalore.

After submitting proposals to the authorities concerned in this regard, the trade and industry are waiting for a response in this matter.

With regard to infrastructure improvement inside the airport, the report of the Court of Inquiry (CoI) — headed by Air Marshal B.N. Gokhale, former Vice-Chief of Air Staff — to look into the cause of accident had noticed that there was a downward slope from the end of runway towards the boundary fence. After overshooting, the ill-fated aircraft had continued in runway-end safety area.

Levelling slopes

Taking note of this, the CoI had recommended that such slopes be brought to the same level of the runway surface. “This needs to be ensured at all the table-top airports in the country,” the report had said.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has started implementing this recommendation by investing around Rs 3.5 crore in the project. It is expected to be completed in five months.

The AAI has also implemented the recommendation of the CoI to install distance-to-go-markers (DTGM) on runway shoulders at a cost of Rs 10.5 lakh. The DTGMs are a visual reference for the pilots to ascertain the remaining distance of the runway.

The accident in May 2010 brought another fact to the fore — that the road outside the periphery of the airport needs widening. The huge sophisticated fire-fighting vehicles of the airport faced problems negotiating the narrow roads on the periphery of the airport on that day.

Keeping this in mind, the CoI report stated that the access roads should be broad enough to accommodate such vehicles, which is not the case around Mangalore airport. The 13-km stretch of the road around the airport comes under the jurisdiction of the district administration. Swift action by the Karnataka Government can help solve this problem.

People from trade and industry say that it is now time for the authorities concerned to take a serious look at the infrastructure issues in and around Mangalore airport and prioritise taking action on them.

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Published on May 22, 2011
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