Chandigarh: The Chandigarh International Airport will remain closed for all air traffic from May 12 to 31 to carry out runway expansion and repairs. This is the second phase of runway repair, and the first phase carried out from February 12 to 26 this year. "As per the NOTAM (notice to airmen), no civil and military flights will operate from Chandigarh from May 12 to May 31," Chandigarh International Airport Ltd (CHIAL) PRO Deepesh Joshi said.
The closure of the airport later this month will affect thousands of passengers, especially during the summer vacation season starting later in May.
The airport also has an Indian Air Force (IAF) transport unit based here catering to the forward areas in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly Ladakh area.
During the closure, the IAF had relocated all its aircraft to alternatives bases in north India.
The base was established in 1961 as a major air logistics node of Indian troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. It has also been home to fighter squadrons that were deployed for the air defence of the sensitive Punjab sector.
With time, the base grew in size and operated heavy and medium lift air mobility aircraft like the Antonov-12, Anotonov-32, ILyshin-76, Mi-26 and C-17 Globemaster, a defence spokesman said here on Friday.
He added that the runway was due for repair and enhancement, with the improvement plan involved extension and strengthening of the runway and other operating surfaces so as to accommodate sustained operations by bigger and heavier military and civil aircraft.
"An upgrade of existing navigational and landing aids and fitment of hydrant refueling system for IAF aircrafts was to be dovetailed with the runway works. These could have best been done with a complete runway closure, but considering the requirements of civil aviation and impact on domestic air travel, the Defence Ministry approved a revised plan, wherein the runway work was to be undertaken at night with flight operations continuing during the day," the spokesman said.
Under Phase II (May 12 to 31), there would be work to extend the runway from the existing 9,000 feet to 10,400 feet, the spokesman said, adding that during this phase while flight operations would continue during the day, the length of usable runway would be restricted to 7,200 to 8,000 ft.
The end of Phase II, approximately at the end of the year, would permit regular day operations on an extended runway length," the spokesman said.
"Phase III involves fitment of runway lights and other navigational aids. End of phase III would permit unrestricted day and night operations at Chandigarh airfields. Completion of phase III is envisaged in the first half of 2019," he added.
The spokesman said that the Chandigarh runway has a restricted Cat I ILS (Instrument Landing System) which permits operations down to 1,200 metres visibility and the IAF is installing a Cat II ILS system which will permit operations down to 350 metres visibility.
"The Airports Authority of India is assessing feasibility of fitment of Cat III ILS on one of the runways at Chandigarh. While Cat III ILS permits operations down to 100 metre visibility, it also demands isolation of larger tracts of critical areas. This would involve procurement of real estate from Punjab and Chandigarh. This issue is being addressed by AAI and CHIAL," he said.
The runway length increase will enable operation of wide-bodied aircraft, that will enable air carriers to connect the city with destinations in Europe, US and Australia.
The airport handles nearly 30 commercial flights daily, including international flights to Dubai, Sharjah and Bangkok. The city is linked to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Srinagar, Jaipur and a few other cities in the domestic circuit.
The nearest civilian airports to Chandigarh are Delhi and Amritsar - both around 250 km away.