With the Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 approaching fast, the Odisha government has prepared a timeline to operationalise the Rourkela airport of SAIL after discussing with officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
The 2023 Men’s Hockey World Cup will be held from January 13 to 29 in two cities of Odisha – Bhubaneshwar and Rourkela. Both places are expected to see a massive inflow of international players, coaches, tourists, and sports enthusiasts. Most, if not all, are expected to fly into the host cities.
While Bhubaneswar’s Biju Patnaik Airport (BBI) is suitable for domestic and international operations, Rourkela’s airport is mainly used for private flights and has struggled to start commercial operations, mainly due to inadequate infrastructure.
On June 1, MoCA Joint Secretary Usha Padhee held talks with top officials of SAIL in Delhi followed by another meeting with the Principal Secretary of Transport department, Odisha Bishnupada Sethi and others on June 3. The discussions reportedly focused on the early completion of the airport’s ongoing works and associated formalities following which the timeline was prepared.
Accordingly, it has been targeted to apply for an ARC 2C licence by August 31 and complete ongoing works and commences commercial flight operation under the RCS-UDAN scheme by October 31. A dry test run of ATR 72 type aircraft by Alliance Air is scheduled to take place on November 10.
A longer runway is not being built even though the Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) has provided an additional 146 acres using which the runway could be expanded to over 7,500 feet to operate aircraft like the A320 and B737.
At least 16 fire fighting personnel trained by the Airport Authority of India (AAI) for Fire Category-VI will be deployed by the DG, Fire Service by July 31. According to the timeline, further expansion of the airport as per the master plan would take place from December 31.
Odisha police would also deploy 44 airport security personnel trained by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security while the State Health Department would engage two more ambulances by August 31. By July 15, the SAIL and India Meteorological Department would equip the airport with a MET facility.
Meanwhile, after the expiry of the previous tripartite MoU involving the Odisha government, SAIL and AAI in April 2021, a fresh agreement is likely to be signed on June 20 for running the airport. However, SAIL sources said the MoU signing on June 20 is unlikely to take place in wake of the ongoing discussions.
On June 18, Sundargarh MP and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence Jual Oram inspected the ongoing expansion works at the airport. Jual hoped that the airport would start commercial flight operation by the stipulated time.
Former general secretary of Steel Executives’ Federation of India (SEFI) Bimal Bisi reiterated the demand for a complete takeover of the Rourkela airport by AAI to make it sustainable and remove operational difficulties. He said SAIL is ready to hand over the airport to AAI, but the Steel Ministry, MoCA and Odisha government have to make combined efforts in this regard.
Rourkela Airport, Airport Code – RRK, is a domestic airport located near Chhend Colony, 6 kilometres west of the steel city of Rourkela in the state of Odisha. The airport is mostly used by dignitaries visiting Rourkela, especially officials of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and other VIPs.
The airport’s terminal is being upgraded to handle scheduled operations. Under the UDAN scheme, scheduled flights were to start but this has not materialized. A license for commercial usage of the airport was issued in January 2019.
(With Inputs from The New Indian Express)