Jakkur airport, cold-shouldered by a NHAI project

Jakkur airport, cold-shouldered  by a NHAI project

The wings of Jakkur airstrip, where the country’s oldest Flying School  Government Flying Training School (GFTS) operates, has now been clipped.

The state government had ordered the closure of its operation in June 2014 to protect the Elevated Highway (EH) of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) connecting Bangalore and the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA).

This means, the airstrip which once trained commercial pilots and National Cadet Corps will no longer do so. The State decided that the flying school and other aviation centres should stop all operations. This followed a petition filed in the High court stating that the elevated road endangered aircraft and lives as the runway length had reduced to 70 per cent thus restricting take-offs and landings.

Fifteen students of the GFTS and 30 pilots who used this airport are now in a fix. The Government’s move is also reportedly aimed at ensuring that the elevated toll road’s revenues are not affected. However, the decision has surprised many as the State itself had invested crores of rupees to develop the aerodrome. 

According to sources, the aerodrome also trains 1,800 NCC cadets to fly every year. The Education departments funds the course. With the State government still clueless about where to shift the operations, the training for cadets is uncertain.

The problem began with the opening of the EH. Stating that the EH was built in violation of Section 9 (a) of the Indian Aircraft Act 1934, the Agni Aerosport Adventure Academy Private Limited, moved the High Court. Contending that the length of the runway was reduced from 854 meters to 413 to accommodate the toll way, the petitioners sought directions to ensure safe landing for flights.

Following this petition, a meeting was convened on January 3, 2013, which was chaired by the then Additional Chief Secretary, Subhir Hari Singh. At this meeting, the GFTS officials explained about the threat to the airport, trainees and the pilots from the elevated road, emphasising that they are unable to take off and land safely. The NHAI admitted that clearance was not taken as required, from Jakkur aerodrome before the road project began.

Several solutions were discussed including  extension of the runway, realignment and raising the height of the runway and reducing the height of  EH to ground level. Three proposals were rejected since they were not feasible. The proposal to lower the EH was agreed upon by the Committee.  But even after this, the NHAI went ahead with the project and completed it. The matter reached the High Court with Agni Aero and captain Arvind Sharma seeking to save the airport.

Though the Government made a submission stating that a viamedia solution would be arrived at, on 6 February 2014, at a meeting headed by Chief Secretary Kaushik Mukherjee, the decisions to lower the EH was forgotten. Solutions which were rejected, like extending the runway and making it table top were considered.

However even these have now remained on paper. Interestingly when the Court sought a solution, the Chief Secretary in his affidavit did not suggest any solution, but said that the State will come out with a ‘viamedia’ solution. But more shock was in store for the flying school when the Government ordered closure of the school and other flying activities in June 2014. Though it promised that the operation of the flying school will resume somewhere else, the alternate site is yet to be identified.

The land

The then Maharaja of Mysore had acquired 250 acres of land to start GFTS. The land was transferred to the State Government only on a condition that this should be used only for the purpose of a flying school. The area today is surrounded by several highrise buildings and apartments. The emergence of several posh localities and layouts here has pushed up the land value too.

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