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Flights to Thanjavur: AAI, IAF to decide sharing of facilities

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CHENNAI: The Airports Authority of India’s plan to begin commercial services from Thanjavur airport is taking time as the Indian Air Force (IAF) is yet to clear the plan. The defence ministry has given its approval for the project, but the IAF is holding discussions about fixing the time schedule for civilian and air force use and it could be some time before it gives the nod.

SpiceJet, which has bagged the contract to fly from Thanjavur to Chennai under phase 2 of the Centre’s regional connectivity scheme, will be using its Q400 Bombardier plane, an 80-seater aircraft, for services on the route.

A senior AAI official said that Thanjavur airport could be developed fast but added that they would need to build a small terminal, an apron for civil planes and also taxiways. “It will be operational only for a few hours each day and will be used by the air force,” he added.

The work would start after the operational aspects are worked out which might include use of space inside the airfield and the use of airspace as there might be specifications on flying altitude and other aspects, he added.

An advantage is that the AAI may not need to establish a mobile or remote air traffic control tower as the airfield already has a ATC building in which a unit could be set up to control civil flights. More flights and more routes could be explored with the focus on pilgrim and domestic tourist traffic from the airport, said an airline official. Currently, the nearest airport is Trichy, which is an hour’s ride away by road.

The AAI also sees a lot of scope in the long run to convert Thanjavur into a satellite airport for Trichy when the traffic grows.

“Pilgrims are going to be a big draw for airlines flying to the airport. The Ramnad and Kayathar air strips, which are in line for development under the regional connectivity scheme, have good scope as many airlines would prefer to use small planes,” said an official.

Several pilgrims who visit Rameswaram would like to use the Thanjavur airport as well as the Ramnad air strip, the official said. “It is not enough to have flights to Chennai from here. There should be flights to Hyderabad, Bengaluru and a few cities in the northern states from where several pilgrims travel to Tamil Nadu,” he added.


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