Bangalore, Feb 8 (IANS) State-run defence behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will soon open its Ozar military aerodrome at Nashik in Maharashtra to civilian flights as an alternative to the congested Mumbai airport, a top official said Friday.
"As part of our foray into the civilian sector, we are developing the Ozar airport at Nashik, which is being used for flying only military aircraft," HAL chairman R.K. Tyagi told IANS at an aerospace event on the city's outskirts.
Regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has recently permitted HAL to operate its Ozar airport for both military and civil aircraft with additional facilities, including a passenger-cum-cargo terminal as an alternative to the Mumbai airport, which is getting congested.
With state-run (Air India) and private carriers using Ahmedabad airport in Gujarat as an alternative, HAL plans to leverage its proximity as Ozar is about 170 km from Mumbai while Ahmedabad is 560 km away.
"Operating flights from Ozar will be more economical than from Ahmedabad, as airlines will save a lot of money on costly aviation turbine fuel (ATF) and provide an alternative airstrip for long and short-haul flights," Tyagi said on the margins of Aero India, the five-day aerospace trade expo being held at the Indian Air Force (IAF) Yelahanka base, about 25 km from north Bangalore.
In this context, Tyagi said the company would explore similar opportunities to serve the growing civil aviation sector from its dedicated airfields across the country, including Bangalore, Koraput in Odisha and those under the state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) across the country.
HAL is also open to reviving its airport in the city for short-haul flights and feeder service if the government allows.
"It is for the government to decide when we can re-open our city airport for civilian flights, as the policy of not having a similar airport within 150 km radius of the existing one (Bangalore international airport) is still valid," Tyagi said.
Though HAL airport was used for domestic and international civilian flights over the decades, the operations were shifted since May 2008 to the country's first greenfield airport at Devanahalli, about 40 km from the city, built under the public-private partnership by a consortium of overseas and domestic partners.
Since then, there has been a persistent demand from the passenger community to resume domestic flights from the HAL airport for feeder routes across the state and other cities/towns in the southern region.
The high-powered committee, set up by the government under the chairmanship of former finance secretary Vijay Kelkar, had drawn a blueprint for HAL to foray into the civilian sector as a major MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) player in the country and manufacturer of regional transport aircraft and aero engines for civilian aircraft.
For an early move advantage in the sunrise sector, set to emerge as the world's third largest civil aviation market, HAL plans to invest about Rs.7,500 crore in setting up MRO facilities across the country, manufacturing a 90-seater aircraft under a joint venture with private vendors and aero engines, whose demand is expected to be a whopping 250,000 by 2020.