Officials said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) has advised closure of the Jammu airport for civilian traffic for 15 days in the next month for runway resurfacing work. This proposal has received a strong resentment from the Jammu and Kashmir administration which has demanded the defence ministry’s intervention into the matter.
Almost two dozen flights take-off and land at the Jammu airport. All the companies which operate their flights in the sector have stopped booking as of now. The officials said that Air Force Station, Jammu wants to completely close the runway for 15 days for laying of final two top DAC-II layers on the runway surface from March 6 to 20, which has been approved by Air Headquarters.
The officials said Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary, B V R Subrahmanyam, expressed his objection with the Civil Aviation Ministry on this matter and requested Defence Ministry to intervene in the matter to make sure that the resurfacing is done in a way in which civilian air traffic is not affected during the day time.
Subrahmanyam wrote in his letter to Civil Aviation Ministry Secretary, Pradeep Singh Kharola, that completely closing airport for 15 days would create huge administrative issues for the Jammu and Kashmir administration. The chief secretary said that the Jammu airport is the only civil airport in the division and is the only source of civilian air traffic for the entire province and also serves as the only connecting airport for Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.
He wrote that if the airport is closed for 15 days, then air traffic would have to be diverted to the nearest civil airport in Punjab, which would cause various logistical issues. He also said that even when air connectivity to Kashmir gets disturbed in extreme weather conditions, then air traffic at Jammu increases manifold as Kashmir-bound passengers also have to disembark at the Jammu airport.
The chief secretary added that tourist activities have just recently picked up after lockdown restrictions have been eased up. He advised to carry out the resurfacing work at night time and utilise ramp facilities for aircraft operations at the said runway, a practice which is used by the AAI (Airport Authority of India) for all resurfacing work.