Goa airport for 24 hours likely

| 08 November 2001 23:24 IST

The Dabolim airport, owned by the naval authorities, would be now kept open round-the-clock for civilian traffic.

As no other air base is available in the tourist state, Goa has been using the naval airport partially for the civilian traffic, right from the beginning. However, the navy had imposed time restrictions for its utilisation as the airport is also used for their daily practices.

According to state chief secretary Baleshwar Rai, a decision to throw open the airport for 24 hour landing has been taken at a joint meeting of the defence, civil aviation and tourism, convened by the PMO, recently in Delhi.

He expects the formalities to be completed within a week, after which its actual implementation may begin.

A demand in this regard has been pending for several years as the Dabolim airport is being used for civilian traffic only between 7 am to 6 pm.

Goa normally receives around 13 to 16 flights every day flying to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, including few flights coming from Kuwait, Sharjah and Muscat twice a week.

However, the traffic increases from mid-October, as the tourism season begins, with charters from several western countries flying down to Goa. On an average, 13 to 20 flights land here in the morning slot from Friday to Sunday, with maximum number of charters arriving here on Fridays.

Though the number of charters has gone down tremendously with the US-Afghan war, the flights are still coming in, while there is also demand for night landing from different countries.

"May be we have to increase our staff, but we had adequate infrastructure to run the airport round-the-clock", claims A K Sangal, the airport director. However, sources at the airport disclose that the staff is inadequate even to the run the airport within the present restricted timings.

The civil aviation ministry has also cleared an international airport worth Rs 1200 crore for Goa, but it may actually materialise not before five years. Till then, if traffic increases, using the naval airport for 24 hours is the only solution.

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