Sep 14, 2008
Pictures: Dayanada Kukkaje
Mangalore airport has been in the news for the last few years and December 2008 will mark another important milestone in the chequered history of this airport. The civil work at the much awaited new terminal building will be completed by coming December and it would be operational by March 2009. With the commissioning of this terminal the 22 km distance from the city to the Bajpe airport will now be reduced by 6 kms.
Construction activity is in full swing in Kenjar village, the site of the new terminal with the completion of 62% of the work. The hillock is flattened making way for the 43,000 sq metres apron, the parking stand of the aircraft. The taxiway parallel to the new runway connecting the apron, which will considerably reduce the aircraft ground time, is also completed. Structures are erected, steel frames and roof has been completed and granite flooring and glazing work will commence this month, which shows that the work is progressing rapidly. The transformation of the hillock is seen to be believed mainly because the last bunch of evacuees had left the village only in March 2008. 186 acres of land was handed over by the Karnataka Government to the airport for new taxiway to link the old runway with the new, new fire station, new techno block, control tower and the new terminal building.
Built at a cost of Rs. 147 crores in a 40 acre area of land the 17,200 sq metre terminal will have 2 aero bridges, 5 parking stands, 300 cars parking facility, 28 check-in counters, several conveyor belts, 250-passenger capacity arrival hall and an hodgepodge of facilities keeping in tune with the status of an airport handling international flights. The apron at the new terminal was constructed within a short span of 3 months.
FULFILLING A DREAM
Known for its table top runway with the landing approach of the highway leading up to the extreme edges of the hill side, Mangalore Airport was almost non-existent except for the arrival and departure of some limited domestic flights till a few years ago. But the scenario witnessed a dramatic change with the commissioning of a new international length (2.9 km) concrete runway in 2006, built at a cost of Rs. 50 crores. Apart from making Mangalore the second airport in Karnataka to have two runways it paved the way for handling the arrival and departure of international flights at Mangalore airport, thus fulfilling a long cherished dream of NRI’s of the coastal region and that of North Kerala region.
Developmental activities at Mangalore Airport received a new impetus after Mr M R Vasudeva, took over as the Director of the airport in 2004, infusing new vigor and dynamism to the developmental activities at the airport. It began with the construction of the 2.9 km long new runway for the new terminal which was completed in 2006. Though the land acquisition was done in 1989, the Karnataka Government handed over the land to the runway only in 2003. So far the government has handed over 336 acres of land free of cost to the Airport Authority.
Credit goes to the fervor and interest evinced by Mr Vasudeva for speeding up the construction activities on a war footing. Though all the 208 families at Kenjar had not vacated the area until recently, construction work was started side by side by convincing the families involved. “It has to be acknowledged that the runway would not have been reality so soon if the construction of the runway was not started immediately after the land was handed over to us. We worked along with problems”, Mr. Vasudeva says with a sense of fulfillment writ large on his face.
THE MAN AT THE HELM
With him at the helm of affairs there have been visible changes at the Mangalore airport with the extension of services step by step and the new arrival hall was the only major addition to the airport till 2005. With the new runway becoming operational the Passenger traffic rose to about 7 lakhs in 2007 as against the 2.77 lakhs passenger traffic of 2005. Until 2005 Mangalore airport could handle only Boeing 737 sized aircraft. From handling a handful of flights in 2005, Mangalore airport has today graduated to handle the arrival and departure of at least 21 flights daily. Apart from domestic services, its international operations are available to Dubai, Muscat, Sharja, Abhudabi, Bahrain, Doha and Kuwait. It will soon begin its operations to Damam.
All these facilities has resulted in increased revenue and within three years the airport turned a new leaf making an operating profit of 8.63 crores as against a loss of 2.85 crores in 2005. But now it is able to handle critical aircrafts like A 321, A320 A319 and B737-800 – medium capacity long range (MCLR) aircrafts. Mr Vasudeva attributes this change of fortune to gulf operations which resulted in increased passenger traffic and also to new safety measures adopted. The airport changed its offset instrument landing system to ILS category – I to enhance the safety cover. It also integrated Doppler Very High Frequency Omni Range (DVOR) in 2004, which helps the pilot to take correct angle while in space.
Presently Mangalore airport is providing services to all the aircrafts flying over Mangalore within a radius of 200 nautical miles, which is about 500 kms in space, covering areas of Coimbotore, Calicut, Goa, Belgaum, Bangalore and a few areas of Andhra. “This has been made possible by shifting to 24-hours radar service at the airport in 2005” Vasudeva added.
BUMPY RIDE AHEAD….
With the commissioning of the new terminal the entire premises of airport will be shifted to the new terminal and the old terminal will be used for cargo handling. Mr Vasudeva is keen to ensure that the project is completed in time. He has been infused the same level of enthusiasm in his team. Mr Prasad, Engineer in charge of the electrical work at the new terminal is in awe of the energy behind the new terminal and says “it would not be out of place to say that Mr Vasudeva has taken personal interest to ensure the timely completion of the project. He comes to the project site everyday to see the progress and this energizes us to work with more gusto”.
There are several bottlenecks which the airport authorities have to overcome other than getting the terminal ready. The work of the approach road to the new terminal is moving at a snails pace. After a gap of 3 months off season Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (KUIDFC) has begun the work and has promised to complete it by December this year. Till then of course the bumpy to the airport will continue.
THE MAN WITH A MISSION
Marpallai Ramayya Vasudeva – popularly known as M R Vasudeva, was born after a year of the setting up of the Mangalore Airport which was established 1951. But one cannot deny the fact that his name will be indelibly linked to the Mangalore Airport. His parents were from Udupi but he was brought up in Chickmagalur. A down to earth personality, he has been the rallying force behind the successful transformation of the Mangalore airport to its present stature. His enthusiasm and high energy levels are infectious and enough to invigorate whoever works with him. Daiji speaks to the man who has made it a mission to complete the work at the airport before his departure.
Q. Is it a dream comes true to see the terminal building coming up?
A. I don’t call it as dream come true. Mangalore is getting what is due to it and it makes me happy that I am a part of it.
Q. What was the most challenging task you faced in carrying out the task?
A. I am happy that I had the support of all the people in my endeavor. The real challenge I faced in the course of these activities was the shifting of places of worship to make way for the new runway, without hurting the sentiments of the people.
Q. Was it tough evacuating the people from the site?
A. Though some of the families left the site only in March 2008, I was able to convince them and start the construction work without waiting for them to leave at once.
Q. What is the Rehabilitation and resettlement arrangement made to displaced people?
A. The displaced people are rehabilitated at Siddhartha Nagar and Sowharda Nagar at Bajpe. They are provided with all the amenities which they could not get at Kenjar and I think they are happy.
Q. But some people recently staged a protest in front of the Bajpe airport asking for more compensation to the displaced people?
A. Airport Authority is not involved in providing compensation to the evicted people and the matter is looked after by the state government. These displaced people are asking for job opportunities in the airport. But we can consider it only if these people have necessary qualification as required by Airport Authority of India. We can submit their applications to Airport authorities with a request to consider them for jobs on priority basis.
Q. It has been five years since you have assumed office as Director …
A Actually I am due for promotion and might be transferred any time. But I have requested my superiors to allow me to continue till the present project is completed. I have 4 more years of service and will be promoted to a bigger station any time.