Civil aviation secretary RN Choubey and Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials have held two meeting with the Tamil Nadu government in the last three months, to discuss the matter of setting up a second airport in Chennai. “Eighteen months back, we were handling 28 movements per hour (at Chennai) and after making improvements in our air navigation system, we hope to reach 40. With this, we expect we will be managing Chennai till 2030 or 2035. However, a city like Chennai will definitely require a second airport thereafter,” AAI chairman, Guruprasad Mohapatra told reporters.
According to a study carried out by aviation think-tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), Chennai handled 18.4 million passengers in 2016 and is expected to reach its maximum capacity of 23-26 million passengers by 2020, if traffic grows at an estimated rate of 12.5 per cent. The CAPA adds that while there are plans to expand capacity to 30 million passengers per year at Chennai airport, airside (hangars, runway, parking bay) constraints, could pose a big challenge. The think-tank estimates an expenditure of USD 500 million for a second airport in Chennai.
Mohapatra said that a decision will be taken later, on whether the second airport will be a greenfield airport (new airport on unused land) developed on a public-private partnership model, or whether it will be developed by the AAI. Another city that will need a second airport is Kolkata and the West Bengal government has suggested the Durgapur airport as an option. However, Mohapatra added that Durgapur is at a fair distance from Kolkata and many airlines have not shown interest in the airport so far and, therefore, the Centre has asked the state government to explore another location.
The centre is also exploring the land pool model of infrastructure development, as an alternative to land acquisition. “That is the way forward to plan airports in the future,” the AAI chairman said.
The civil aviation ministry has proposed this model to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, for developing new airports in the state.