Civilians skeptical about start of civilian flights from Naini-Saini airport
Pithoragarh, Feb 24
After Uttarakhand Chief Secretary S.S Sandhu, announced on February 14, this year that Naini-Saini airstrip in Pithoragarh will be operated by Indian Air Force (IAF), people eagerly awaiting civilian flights have termed it as a new obstacle on way of resuming civil flights from Pithoragarh.
“We have completed the works of repairing and electrification works on the airstrip, assigned to us by the Chief Secretary during his visit to the district last month. We are still awaiting the licence from Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA),” Pithoragarh District Magistrate Reena Joshi said.
According to sources, following Chief Minister Dhami’s announcement to run civic flights from January 31, the assigned airline is going to purchase a new 20 seater aircraft to run it between Pithoragarh and Hindon, after 2 months.”Another short listed company had put a condition of handing over the entire air operations in the state, which was not possible for the government.” said Kedar Joshi, a senior ruling BJP leader.
After the airstrip inaugurated in 1992, it could start civic flights only for 6 months from October 2019 to March 2020, which also ceased due to technical problem s when the door of 9 seater aircraft opened mid air.
“Before that brief stint, several obstacles were cited by DGCA teams that used to visit the airport when demands of civil flights used to come up from public,” said Pawan Joshi, President of Traders Union of Pithoragarh.”It included identification of houses which used to come in way of landing a civic aircraft, and expansion of airstrip,” said Joshi.” The houses earmarked to be demolished to facilitate landing a 20 seater aircraft are still to be removed,” said joshi.
Despite said lack of standards for civic flights, the airstrip, witnessed landing of small and medium charter planes, heavy air force aircrafts and 9 seater planes of heritage airlines that flew for 6 months as passenger air service.” When medium load carriers of IAF can land on the strip, then why the complaints of new formalities every time,” asked Pawan Joshi.
According to sources, IAF is managing several airports like Bareilly, Prayagraj Chandigarh and several others and also allowing civilian flights by giving separate terminals.” In some cases, the IAF has limited slots for civic flights for unknown reasons at some airports controlled by it,” said Kedar Joshi, a retired IAF officer and senior BJP leader.
According to Joshi, though the civic flights from Pithoragarh airport could be started under IAF controlled facility, but in long term the administration should start looking for another place to construct a civilian airport as the air traffic is bound to increase in future.”There are several other locations in Pithoragarh district which can be developed as a moderate runway airport in future,” said Joshi.