Seventeen civilian flights, including two international, will be affected every day between January 8 and April 8, 2014, when the Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) project begins at Air Force station, Lohegaon. During this period, the runway will be closed between 10 pm and 8 am.
While Air Commodore Surat Singh, Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Air Force Station assured that “all of them (flights operating during this duration) will be adjusted”, airlines are sure to work overtime in the coming months to manage the changed schedules and connecting flights in other cities accordingly. The final schedule, including the changed timings of the affected flights, is yet to be “crystalised”, said Singh. Flights to and from Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore, that operate during the closure hours, are likely to be rescheduled.
Addressing a press conference at the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), Singh said, “We (IAF) will take a few steps, civil will take a few steps. Safety of passengers will not be compromised.”
The Lohegaon Airfield is second to undergo an upgrade under MAFI project after Bathinda, where the project was implemented on a pilot basis. The contract for MAFI phase I was signed on March 16, 2011, with M/s TATA power (SED) at a cost of Rs 1,219.99 crore. The project envisages a time-bound programme wherein 30 airfields will be modernised by installing navigational infrastructure. The project is running behind schedule due to shortcomings observed during implementation of Bathinda project, but Singh said they have now been rectified.
The Pune airport/Air Force Station handles 36,000 take-offs and landings throughout the year. The number is 110 per day. According to Manoj Gangal, the newly appointed airport director, the yet- to-be crystalised schedule for the three months will also have to keep in mind the “modalities of terminal management”.
“At a given point of time, the airport can handle 400 people. Rearranging the schedule will involve logistical aspects, such as manpower at the airport,” he said.
“Given that operations will be closed during night, no airline would be able to park their aircraft at the airport, which is a loss of revenue for the airport,” said an airport official. The airport also handles about 10- 5 non-scheduled flights every day, which are likely to be affected.
The airlines have forwarded suggestions to IAF authorities and the AAI to ensure “minimum disruption in flight schedules”. “MAFI is crucial for Pune airport.