Indian Air Force has agreed to allow the use of its Hindon air base for civilian flights under the government’s regional connectivity scheme (RCS), civil aviation secretary R N Choubey has said.
The Hindon air base will henceforth be serving as the “second” airport in in Delhi-NCR for flights operating in tier-2 and tier-3 cities under the UDAN regional connectivity scheme.
The move will help take the load off Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport which is facing slot constraints.
The RCS, also known as UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), aims at making flying affordable for the masses by capping airfares on selected short routes – such as from Delhi to Shimla – with flight rates at Rs 2,500 per hour of flying.
Airlines that are awarded routes under the scheme are offered government subsidy and in return need to set aside 50 per cent of the seating capacity for discounted fares.
“In the second round of bidding for RCS, we expect a significant demand for slots for Delhi airport. We recognize that it will be difficult for DIAL to provide all the slots and we have pre-emptively taken up the matter with the IAF, which has gone out of the way to co-operate with us and make their airbase available to us,” Choubey told reporters at an ASSOCHAM event.
Hindon, under the Western Air Command, happens to be the largest air base in India and also the 8th largest in the world. The operation of civil aircraft from the Ghaziabad-based airbase, on the outskirts of Delhi, is likely to start during the winter schedule which comes into effect on the last Sunday of October.
The need for approaching the air force for the use of Hindon air base came up as the government recognised that there was a significant demand for slots to operate RCS flights from Delhi and the airport might not be in a position to provide that many slots.
The government, however, needs to bring on board the IGI airport operator, the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), in order to seek a relaxation of the rule which disallows commercial operations of flights from a second airport within 150 kms of an existing one.
“We are reasonably confident that we will be able to resolve contract related issued with DIAL,” Choubey added.
The official also said that the Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai will not be available for the second round of bidding for the RCS due to lack of availability of slots.
There are 23 defence airports across the country which are also used as civil enclaves for the purpose of operating commercial flights.
Indian Air Force bases in Gorakhpur and Bikaner and naval bases such as Goa’s Dabolim and Vishakhapatnam are currently being used for civilian purposes.
The second round of bidding is expected to see a rise in Regional Connectivity Scheme flights as domestic carriers IndiGo and Spice-Jet have both placed orders for turboprops for increasing its regional flights.