Dharamsala, October 13, 2013: The scope of expansion of one of the three civil airports in Himachal has once again brightened as the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation has hinted at expanding Gaggal Airport of Kangra district.
After a visit to Delhi, Himachal Pradesh Minister for Urban Development, Sudhir Sharma, said that Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has agreed to conduct a fresh survey for expansion of the airport. "Expansion of this airport would cater to the needs to domestic and international tourists coming to visit McLeodganj and Dharamshala," he said. The ministry has also assured to provide night landing and refueling facilities at Gaggal, enabling bigger aircraft to land.
Gaggal Airport, alternatively known as Dharamsala Airport, is an airport located in Gaggal 12 kms South-West of 2nd capital of Himachal, Dharamsala. At present the Airport, is spread over 126 acres at an altitude of 2,492 feet has one asphalt runway, 1372 meters long and 30 meters wide. Its 300 by 200 foot apron provides parking space for 2 turboprop aircraft like the ATR-72, while its terminal building can handle 100 passengers.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation had initiated a plan for expansion of the air strip of the Gaggal airport from the existing 4,620-ft runway to 8,000 ft or above to enable the landing of bigger aircrafts like Air Buses 320 and Boeing 737.
Gaggal airport is the only airport in the state where 85-seater planes can land easily. Himachal Pradesh has been raising the issue of expanding the airports at Shimla, Bhuntar (Kullu-Manali) and Gaggal (Kangra) since long. Aviation Ministry hinted that the two airports at Kullu and Shimla are too small and there is no scope for expansion because of difficult topography and high mountains.
In 2010 too, on the request of than BJP lead state government, the Civil Aviation Ministry had mooted a project for expansion of the air strip and construction of a new larger terminals at the airport. A flyover has been planned over the adjoining villages and the Gaggal town, so that the runway could be expanded. As per norms, the Civil Aviation Ministry alone cannot finance the whole project and the state has to contribute its share. Besides agreeing to acquire land for the expansion of the runway, the then BJP-led state government withdraw its plan of expansion, because of the poor financial health of the state, and expressed its inability to provide its share of Rs 500 crore. So proposals to expand Gaggal airport have also remained confined to papers only.
At present the one-way air fare on Delhi-Dharamsala circuit is between Rs 4,200 to Rs 11,000. If The Gaggal Air Port gets expansion, the bigger aircrafts can start operating on this circuit, and tariff can easily come down to Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000, which will be affordable to masses and will also boost tourist traffic to the Kangra valley. At the moment two companies Air India and SpiceJet are operating daily from Delhi to Dharamsala and back. www.cityairnews.com