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Maharashtra govt shoots down AAI's Juhu airport expansion plan

Aneesh Phadnis & Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

The Maharashtra government has objected to the Airport Authority of India’s (AAI) plan to extend the Juhu airport runway into the sea,saying it will impact the proposed Bandra-Versova sea link.

The AAI, which manages the Juhu airport, has proposed to extend the existing 1,140-metre runway by 700-800 metres to enable it to accommodate turboprops and small passenger jets. Juhu airport serves as a helibase for Mumbai and handles around 100 chopper movements a day. It can only accommodate small fixed wing planes due to its smaller length of its runway. The plan to extend the runway was mooted to ease congestion at the Mumbai airport and shift the slower-moving turbo props and private jets to Juhu.

Although the expansion of Juhu airport was conceptualised several years ago, AAI is now trying to revive the project as the Navi Mumbai airport has been delayed.

However, the state government does not seem to be in favour of the plan. According to sources, Maharashtra chief secretary J K Banthia conveyed to AAI chairman V P Agarwal that the locals might object to the plan to extend the runway. Another reason for the state’s reluctance to the airport expansion is its own proposal to build a sea-link from Bandra to Versova and extended runway could impact its alignment and create complication. The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation has recently secured the green nod for the Bandra-Versova sea link.

Banthia and Agarwal were not available for comment. A senior state official said, “The proposal will require environment impact assessment. The extension of the runway will mean barricading of runway. It will mean closure of half of the beach and this will not go down well with the residents.”

Sources, however, said that runway extension itself may not be of much use and will not help reduce the load of the Mumbai airport. While small passenger aircraft operations can be shifted to Juhu, de-congesting the Mumbai airport, the take-off at both the airports have to be synchronised. “Simultaneous take offs will not be possible because of alignment of runway. Also, both the airports are just 2.5 kms away,” said an aviation source.

Even now, about 700 metres of runway is not available and the touch-down point is beyond that from the eastern-side approach. This is due to the presence of buildings surrounding the airport.

“Even after the extension, the problem will persist. Otherwise, landing will have to be carried out from over the sea from the western side. But, this will bring the planes in direct path of planes taking off from Mumbai’s main runway and hence is unviable,” the aviation source added.

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First Published: Tue, January 08 2013. 00:51 IST