Chandigarh: Punjab will have yet another airport. To be set up initially as a domestic airport, it will have the capability of being expanded into an international one. MP from Faridkot and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who lobbied hard for this project, has managed to secure a “go-ahead” from the union ministry of civil aviation for the same. The Air Headquarters too is expected to issue a “no-objection soon”.
The airport will not be a stand-alone airport, but will be built to have a small township around it. The need for an airport near Ludhiana was felt after the IAF refused to clear the civil airport project at Sahnewal.
“The matter is now before the ministry of defence, which has raised certain queries. All these have been addressed to their satisfaction and we are likely to get the clearance very soon”, a senior official of the government disclosed to The Tribune.
Sukhbir, who also secured a clearance from the Prime Minister’s Office for the project, told Delhi that Punjab proposed to set up the airport between Payal and Sahnewal on about 5,000 acres of green field. The township around the airport would be set up in an area of 12,000 to 13,000 acres.
Initially, the airport will be built for domestic operations, but all clearances are being taken with a view to upgrade it in the future to an international level, making this to be the third international airport after Amritsar and Mohali in the state.
Though in principal, the defence ministry does not allow setting up of a new airport unless it is over 250 km away from an existing airport. But, this new airport, proposed to be set up somewhere on the border of Fathegarh Sahib and Ludhiana district, will be only 70 km from the Mohali airport.
The Department of Civil Aviation, Punjab, had taken up the matter pertaining to the extension of the civil airport at Sahnewal with the Airport Authority of India and the ministry of defence through the Air Headquarters. But, the IAF had certain reservations as the firing ranges at Halwara and Sidwan Khas could prove to be dangerous for aircraft like Boeing 737 and Airbus 320.
After deliberations, the Air Headquarters has accorded permission to start domestic flights from Sahnewal’s existing runway for VFR operations for ATR type of aircraft. Since, this was not acceptable to the Punjab government, Sukhbir made it clear to the Centre that the Punjab government would like to seek all clearance that might subsequently help in turning the proposed airport into an international one.
The government will notify the acquisition of land only after it receives a final clearance from the Air Headquarters.