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Defence Ministry approves operation of civilian flights from Awantipora airfield

In a significant development, the Union Defence Ministry has approved operation of civilian flights from Awantipora airfield, a strategically important airbase managed by Indian Air Force in southern Kashmir.

“‘In-principle approval for civil flights operations from
Awantipora airfield under Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) has been conveyed
to Ministry of Civil Aviation in June, 2019,” reads the written reply of Union
Minister of State Defence Shripad Naik’s to a question by Member of Parliament
from Anantnag constituency Hasnain Masoodi about the steps being taken by the
Ministry to transfer Awantipora Airport to the Civil Aviation Ministry for
civilian air traffic.

Awantipora Air Force Station of the Indian Air Force (IAF)
is located in Awantipora, about 5 km from Pulwama town, and is used exclusively
for defence purposes.

According to Defence Ministry, there are seven airfields and
two advanced landing grounds in Jammu and Kashmir under defence jurisdiction.

A senior state civil aviation official said that the
approval of the Defence ministry would pave way for operation of second airport
for civilians in Kashmir. “Defence Ministry has given approval under Regional
Connectivity Scheme which is an initiative of Government of India to make air
travel affordable,” he said.

“UDAN-RCS, UDAN meaning Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik, is a
regional airport development and Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) of
Government of India, with the objective of letting the common citizen of the
country fly, aimed at making air travel affordable and widespread, to boost
inclusive national economic development, job growth and air transport
infrastructure development of all regions and states of India. UDAN scheme will
add to this number by expediting the development and operationalisation of
country’s potential-target of nearly 425 unserved, underserved, and mostly
underdeveloped regional airports with regular scheduled flights”, the official
added.

Since Kashmir is a tourist destination and land-locked,
there is a growing demand for an alternative civilian airport. Currently,
Srinagar International Airport is the only civilian airport in Kashmir, which
often is burdened due to heavy influx of travelers.

The Srinagar Airport has been facing space constraints and
inadequate parking area for aircraft landings and take off. The airport is
under direct operational control of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which controls
its air traffic and landing strip and also the facilities of fire-fighting and
crash activities, apart from the airspace. The terminal building, where the
passengers check-in and check-out, and the apron area, where an aircraft is
parked, are however controlled by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

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