'Udan’ grounded in Tamil Nadu

'Udan’ grounded in Tamil Nadu

UDAN is an ambitious programme by the Centre to connect several small cities and towns by air and thereby making air travel convenient and affordable to common citizens. (DH File Photo. For representation purpose)

Four cities in Tamil Nadu – Hosur, Vellore, Neyveli and Salem – were proposed to get connected by air through the ambitious UDAN scheme of the Centre. But two years after the plan was launched, flight operations have begun only from Salem Airport and there has been no progress in launch of flights from the remaining three cities.

These cities should have been connected by air by the end of 2018, but a host of issues like unviability of commercial operations and non-decision by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) have delayed the project, say officials with the Tamil Nadu government.

UDAN is an ambitious programme by the Centre to connect several small cities and towns by air and thereby making air travel convenient and affordable to common citizens.

Though the airstrip in Neyveli, home to the Neyveli Lignite Corporation, is ready for flight operations, no airlines have so far come forward to launch flights from the city, apparently due to commercial unviability. Sources said an airport in Neyveli was not necessary since a commercial airport with flight operations already exists in near-by Puducherry.

“As expected, no operator has so far expressed interest in launching flight operations from Neyveli. We can’t have commercial operations, just because there is an airstrip in a particular place,” a senior Tamil Nadu government official said.

Vellore’s case is different, as the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has sought more land from the Tamil Nadu government to expand the existing airstrip to enable landing of aircraft like Boeing 737 and AirBus A320, without even assessing the commercial viability of such huge planes being operated from a domestic airport. 

As far as Hosur is concerned, the Bengaluru International Airport (BIAL), located just 72 kms from the proposed airport in Hosur, had provided a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the operation of two flights last year but there has been no development so far.

The private airport owned by Taneja Aerospace and Aviation in Hosur was to be converted or expanded to make it a public airport for use by public.

“Since Taneja requested that Tamil Nadu government help construct them the terminal buildings due to paucity of funds, we decided to help them. But the file is pending before the AAI,” another senior official said.