Indian Air Force projects MAFI, GAGAN to benefit Pune airport

Pune airport
The Pune Airport is set to witness its makeover. While phase-II of modernisation of the airport is nearing the final stage, also working in its favour would be Indian Air Force projects, Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) and GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN). With Tata Power SED recently bagging the mega deal for MAFI, IAF's 1094-crore project to modernise 30 airforce bases in India, authorities at the airport are sure that better days are ahead for the Pune Airport.

"MAFI project will certainly help us improve navigation," said P S R K Sudhakar, airport director, AAI, Pune Airport. Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, during his last visit to the IAF station in Lohegaon, had said that Lohegaon Airport, besides being important for civil aviation, is also an important air force base and one of the 30 airbases in the country to be included in MAFI. He had indicated modernisation of hangars and infrastructure at IAF Lohegaon. The modernisation is expected to bring in some of the most modern Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) that could include localiser antenna and guide-path buildings, both of which can enhance navigation, especially night vision. While the airport already has a Distant Measuring Equipment (DME), there is a possibility of receiving another.

"Project GAGAN by ISRO is expected to reach completion within two years. The Rs 700-crore project aims at satellite-based navigation and digital communication," added Sudhakar.

In 2010-11, the city witnessed 25 per cent growth in passengers over 2009-10. While cargo grew by 17 per cent, weight of cargo increased by 50 per cent. 62 operations take place every day at 9 domestic destinations besides two international, Dubai and Frankfurt.

Besides military limitations associated with it, one of the major reasons as to why the city has not been able to attract international carriers is the length of the runway and it is hoped that the MAFI project would help increase the length of the runway from the existing 8,350 feet to 9,500-10,000 feet. "International flights of bigger sizes need longer runways and a smaller runway is one reason why foreign carriers are not looking at Pune, though two international flights from the airport are getting a good response. We are hopeful IAF modernisation would benefit us in getting a longer runway," said an official.

Meanwhile, phase-II of modernisation of Lohegaon Airport is nearing the final stage. The Rs 15-crore project would see a new administrative block in which AAI offices would be accommodated. Six new hangars are proposed for private planes. The airport authorities have major space crunch an initiative to create space includes shifting of the electrical station to the administration block. Also planned is a tensile-fabric canopy 180 metres by 18 feet to provide shelter and aesthetics. "We have requested the IAF authorities to provide us with more space to increase apron size to accommodate two-three more aircraft."

A VIP lounge soon

Soon, the airport will have a VIP lounge. "Taking note of increase VIP visits, such a facility has become a must. Currently, they pass through a terminal building, which inconveniences other passengers. The new lounge will have a separate X Ray, screening facility," said Sudhakar. Other facilities coming up are: modern instrument landing systems, longer runway, satellite linked navigation, new administrative building, canopy, cargo centre.

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