A decade after first flight

A decade after first flight

Over the last 10 years, passenger numbers at Kempegowda International Airport here have grown to exceed 25 million annually

Ten summers back, when the city’s HAL Airport had every inch of its space-crunched terminals teeming with grumbling flyers, a commercial aircraft took to the skies for one last time. Forty kilometers away, in Devanahalli, a brand new airport awaited its first landing. 

As the Air India Flight 609 touched down at 10.40 pm on May 23, 2008, Bengaluru’s civil aviation history turned a dramatic new chapter. Over the next decade, as all civilian flights ceased to operate at the old airport, lakhs would flock to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), eventually making it India’s third busiest airport. 

But it has not always been a smooth ride. For years, passengers suffered in endless traffic chaos as the new Airport Road struggled to take shape. When it eventually did and transformed into a tollway, the vehicular numbers had reached saturation point. Peak-hour congestion at the Hebbal Flyover still continues to be a huge problem. 

Connectivity woes

A new alternative road to KIA holds promise. But a reality check by DH recently had shown how incomplete that option is. Several stretches are in poor shape, nowhere near the promised alternative. To make it worse, the recent molestation by a cab driver has raised serious questions of safety. Besides, the third option, a Metro connectivity is expected to be realized only in the distant future. 

However, despite these hiccups, the greenfield airport has made giant strides linking Bengaluru to destinations across the globe. Crossing the 25 million mark, KIA served 26.91 million passengers in the financial year 2017-18, a 17.6% growth over the previous fiscal. 

This is a far cry from what the HAL Airport was witness to. In 2006-07,the old airport handled 83,880 scheduled flights, 330 take-offs and landings every day. Ten years later, KIA clocked 1,97,330 Air Traffc Movements (ATMs) in just one year, 2017-18. Before it closed down for commercial operations, the old airport had handled 10,518 international flights in 2006-07.

Record air traffic

In 2017-18, ATMs at KIA hit a record 197,330, an increase of 10.8%. On a single day, February 18, 2018, as many as 91,330 travelers passed through the airport setting another record. On March 25, KIA witnessed the 150 millionth passenger pass through, a milestone since operations began. Currently, 44 airlines connect KIA to 67 destinations, 46 domestic and 21 international.

Cargo movement too witnessed a comparable growth of 9.1%. The total cargo that passed through KIA stood at 348.403 Metric Tonnes.

How sustainable is this high passenger and cargo growth trend? Is the airport operator, the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) prepared to address the big challenge of timely capacity upgrade? The airport topbrass is confident that the proposed infrastructure projects will take shape well in time to meet the projected targets.

Second runway

The big two projects on the BIAL agenda are the second runway and the Terminal-2 (T2). “Work on the second runway and design approvals for Terminal 2 began in 2017. Construction is scheduled to begin during the middle of 2018, with the second runway operational by 2019 and T2 by 2021. US architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has designed T2, while Turner International will be the PMC for this expansive project,” informs a BIAL official. 

Completion of the second runway is on priority mode. While the earth works and leveling are now complete, the actual project execution is yet to begin. BIAL insists that the new facility, dubbed the New South Parallel Runway will be operational from December 2019. Infrastructure major, Larsen and Toubro (L&T) has bagged the Rs 1,358-crore contract.

ILS upgrade

The new runway, equipped with advanced Instrument Landing System (ILS) of category CAT-III(B), could make a big difference in winter when the visibility is poor. Fog delays thousands of flights at KIA during this season, as the existing runway is equipped with only CAT-I ILS that requires a runway visual range (RVR) of 550 metres.

A CAT III-B system can help an aircraft operate in RVR of 50 metres and above. Category III C aids a precision approach and landing with no decision height and no RVR limitation.

Once the second runway becomes operational, KIA will be able to handle 55 ATMs per hour. Currently, the airport records 38 arrivals / departures per hour, informs BIAL officials. But the runway's ability to handle the mammoth Airbus A380 aircraft will be the game-changer.

Bigger aircraft: A380s

BIAL recently received an in-principle approval from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to operate the Code 'F' aircraft on the second runway. The approval followed the green signal from the global regulator, the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The second terminal is proposed to be built in two phase. The first phase will cater to 25 million passengers annually, and the second phase will add another 20 MPA capacity. On completion of both the phases of T2, KIA's overall capacity will touch the 65 million mark.

BIAL officials have indicated that the T2 will be elevated with a ramp to allow vehicles to drive up. A multi-level car park is also planned next to the new terminal. This will be linked seamlessly to buses and the Namma Metro airport station.