Paeans to lost glory

Paeans to lost glory

Paeans to lost glory

A parked aircraft. DH PHOTO BY SHIVA KUMAR B H

The HAL airport may be history as far as civil aviation is considered. But Bangalore still yearns for the airport that is almost bang in the middle of the City. So much so that the City which had sung hosannas to the idea of Bengaluru International Airport, began demanding that the old airport too be retained even before the new one took wings.

 The HAL had been going strong until the BIA opened in 2008. After this the HAL airport was reduced to being a defence facility. But to this day, the HAL airport manages the Air Traffic Control for the new airport.

Besides, the airport is now being given out for film shoots more often than ever before. The arrival, departure lounges and the parking lot are among the most used places, for shoots, at the airport. Tamil, Kannada and Hindi movies are shot there. “They are charged anywhere between Rs 14,000 and Rs 28,000 per hour. About 14 to 20 shoots happen in a year,” said an official at the HAL airport.  

A N Viswanatha, General Manager (ATM) at HAL, says: “There was a time when there wasn’t any space to move an inch. The place would be so crowded. But times have changed."  He says some VIPs still choose to land in at the HAL airport. “The proximity and a sense of security prompt the VVIPs and VIPs to land here. That the airport is in the heart of the City is its main attraction,” he says. Chartered planes of Jindal, GMR, Kudremukh and Kingfisher among others still land here.

The HAL airport has supplied 80 ATC staff and over 70 technicians to maintain the new equipment at the BIAL. And some of the equipment, worth thousands of rupees, that are still lying at the airport are being sent to other airports across the country. Among things being sent are chairs, trolleys, conveyer belts, aero bridges, generators, air conditioners, X-ray machines, binoculars metal and explosive detectors.

  People who have worked at the HAL airport when it was bustling with activity are sad that property worth crores of rupees has just been left idle. “It’s public money that has gone into the construction of the airport and now nobody knows what the future plans are,” says an official with HAL. Stanely Sampath Kumar, branch secretary of Employees’ Union, says it’s sad that operations have been completely shut off. He thinks at least the domestic flights could have been operated from here.

 People who work and live around the HAL heave a sigh of relief, for, they don’t have to battle all those endless traffic jams anymore. But, they say they miss the activity in and around the old airport. Ajay Singh, director sales and marketing Advaith Hyundai Motors says he used to take one hour to 45 minutes to travel to his office in Indiranagar but now that time has been reduced to just half an hour. “I must say that the lifestyle around the old airport still remains the same. Which is a good thing.” Geetha Vasanth, who lived in Diamond District until a year ago, recalls the endless traffic jams near the junction. “It’s a huge relief now,” she signs off.