STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU : The Indian Air Force (IAF) has proposed closure of the Jammu airport for civilian traffic for 15 days next month for runway resurfacing work , drawing a strong resentment from the Jammu and Kashmir administration which has sought the defence ministry’s intervention into the matter, officials said on Wednesday.
Nearly two dozen flights operate to and from the Jammu airport, and in view of the development, all the companies operating their flights in the sector have stopped booking for the period.
Quoting a communication addressed to the Jammu airport director, the officials said Air Force Station, Jammu wants complete closure of the runway for 15 days towards laying of final two top DAC-II layers on the runway surface from March 6 to 20, which has been approved by Air Headquarters.
The officials said Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam lodged his protest with the Civil Aviation Ministry against such a move and requested intervention of the defence ministry into the matter to ensure that the resurfacing is carried out in such a manner that civilian air traffic is not affected during the day time.
“Complete closure of the airport for 15 days would create huge administrative issues for the government of Jammu and Kashmir,” Subrahmanyam had written in his letter to Civil Aviation Ministry Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola.
The officials said the chief secretary highlighted that the Jammu airport, being the only civil airport in the division, caters to the requirement of civilian air traffic for the entire province and serves as the only connecting airport for Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.
“In the eventuality of the closure for 15 days, air traffic would have to be diverted to the nearest civil airport in Punjab, which would result in various logistical issues,” Subrahmanyam said.
He added that air connectivity to Kashmir also gets disturbed and even disconnected in extreme weather conditions and in such cases, the air traffic at Jammu increases manifold as Kashmir-bound passengers also prefer disembarking at the Jammu airport.
The chief secretary further said tourist activities have only recently picked up in the union territory after easing of restrictions imposed on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the given scenario, it would be administratively and operationally prudent to explore the possibility of carrying out the resurfacing work at night time and simultaneously utilising ramp facilities for aircraft operations at the said runway, a practice which is generally adopted by the AAI (Airport Authority of India) for all resurfacing work,” he said.
Responding to the letter of the chief secretary, Kharola took the matter with his counterpart in the defence ministry, Ajay Kumar, and requested his intervention into the matter, citing inconvenience to passengers and tourists and likely fallout on the economy, the officials said.
They said the AAI has already requested IAF Headquarters to plan and execute the proposed work of runway surfacing during night time so that civil aircraft operations are not hampered.