Expansion Drive: AAI’s initiatives to increase capacity and improve facilities at airports

AAI’s initiatives to increase capacity and improve facilities at airports

Airport development in India primarily comes under the purview of the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Of India’s 134 airports, AAI manages 125 airports, of which 21 are international facilities. In addition, the authority is also solely responsible for managing air navigational services (ANS) over the entire Indian airspace. It is presently focusing on augmenting capacity and taking sustainability measures to improve airport performances.

Since 2013, plans have been announced to bid out operations of six key AAI airports (Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Guwahati). However, with the change in government in 2014, the Chennai and Kolkata airports were taken out of the reckoning, followed by the Lucknow and Guwahati airports. Only the Jaipur and Ahmedabad airports are currently planned to be bid out through the operations and maintenance (O&M) route. As of August 2016, the authority is looking at an outsourcing model instead of the privatisation approach for O&M contracts at the airports.

Further, as per an MoU signed with the Solar Energy Corporation of India in 2014, AAI is in the process of installing 50 MW of cumulative solar capacity at select airports and expects the projects to be completed by February 2017. As of February 2016, AAI had awarded solar power projects totalling 23.6 MW at a cost of Rs 1.63 billion.

Kolkata airport

At present, the airport has no urgent capacity expansion requirements, as it saw footfalls of 12.4 million passengers in 2015-16 compared to its capacity of 20 million passengers per annum (mppa). Thus, AAI is mostly focusing on improving service standards and sustainability at Kolkata airport.

Bidding is currently under way for the construction of a new air traffic control tower and a technical block. The project is expected to require Rs 3.06 billion. Further, runway expansion and upgradation works are also proposed to be undertaken at the airport.

A 2 MW rooftop solar power plant was commissioned in December 2015 by solar energy solutions provider Vikram Solar. The project consists of three separate installations of 180 kWp at the operations building, 572 kWp at the cargo and Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority building and 1,248 kWp at the domestic departure building. The project is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 2,036.9 million tonnes per year. AAI will also garner monetary benefit of approximately Rs 215 million per annum through net metering with the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation, along with earning carbon credits for green power generation.

There are also plans of setting up a 15 MW solar farm spread across 60 acres that will generate 22.5 MUs thereby meeting a quarter of the airport’s total electricity requirement.

Chennai airport

AAI has initiated the Chennai Airport Modernisation Project Phase II, which is currently under tendering. This phase will be developed at an investment of Rs 23 billion and will augment the total capacity of terminal buildings to 30 mppa from the present 23 mppa.

Further, AAI has plans to extend the airport’s second runway, for which it will require 14 acres of land. The process of land acquisition has been initiated. Earlier, in April 2016, the runway secured approval for night operations, nearly two years after the first landing (May 2014). However, the instrument landing system, which provides precision for safe approach and landing, is yet to be put in place.

Pakyong and Itanagar airports

Although Sikkim’s Pakyong airport is a greenfield project and should ideally have been developed through the public-private partnership (PPP) route, it is being developed by AAI due to its low commercial value despite the significant social need. Work at Pakyong airport, which was expected to be operationalised in 2015, had been stalled since January 2015 over issues regarding compensation to displaced persons. Though work restarted in July 2015, the delay resulted in a substantial cost escalation. The project is now expected to cost Rs 6.1 billion compared to the Rs 3.1 billion estimated earlier. The airport is likely to be operational by September 2017.

AAI is also undertaking the development of another greenfield airport in the Northeast, at Itanagar. Proposed by the Arunachal Pradesh government, the project is at a preliminary stage as land acquisition needs to be completed before in-principle approval is granted. The airport will be constructed by AAI through a 100 per cent government grant, for the operation of A320 type of aircraft.

Initiatives at other airports

The year 2015-16 witnessed various AAI initiatives for the improvement of airport infrastructure and facilities, along with a focus on generating renewable energy. The initiatives include constructing terminals, improving passenger amenities and enhancing ground infrastructure.

Terminal construction

During 2015-16, new terminal buildings were commissioned at the Mohali, Khajuraho, Kadapa and Tirupati airports. New terminal buildings have been planned at the Agartala, Guwahati, Vijayawada, Leh, Gorakhpur, Patna and Imphal airports, while foundation stones have been laid for new terminal buildings at the Vijayawada and Gorakhpur airports.

Further, plans are afoot to expand the capacity of terminals at the Trichy, Srinagar, Pune, Lucknow, Mangaluru, Dehradun and Jaipur airports.

Expansion works are already under way at several airports that are suffering from capacity constraints. Of these, the Vadodara, Jammu and Kishangarh airport terminals are expected to be ready by end-2016, while another seven terminals (at the Belgaum, Hubli, Vijayawada, Tezu, Calicut, Jharsuguda and Port Blair airports) will be commissioned by 2018.

In addition, the development of airports at Gaya, Raxaul and Purnea as well as the construction of a greenfield airport at Patna are planned under the prime minister’s Rs 27 billion special package for Bihar.

New civil enclaves are planned at five defence aerodromes where civil enclaves already exist (Agra, Allahabad, Kanpur, Bagdogra and Jammu) and three new ones are to be established at the Bareilly, Adampur and Purnea aerodromes.

Other airside developments

The extension of runways, expansion of aprons and construction of parallel taxi tracks have been taken up at various airports across the country to enhance airside capacity.

AAI has undertaken the extension/ strengthening of runways at 10 airports, and work has been completed at the Jaipur and Vadodara airports. Work is in progress at the Kolkata, Chennai, Surat, Trivandrum, Calicut, Ahmedabad, Dibrugarh and Amritsar airports and is likely to be completed by end-2017. Runway extension and strengthening has also been planned at seven other airports – Raipur, Jammu, Rajahmundry, Vijayawada, Tirupati, Kadapa and Jabalpur – and work is to be completed over the next three-four years.

Air navigational services

To allow AAI to focus on its core function of managing airports, setting up of the ANS Corporation had been proposed to control route navigation facilities, terminal navigation and instrument landing systems autonomously. However, there were no developments in this regard under the recently launched New Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP), 2016.

In the past year, AAI has taken strong measures on the ANS front by adopting state-of-the-art technologies, including GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation, Central Air Traffic Flow Management (CATFM) and automation systems for air traffic control. Green initiatives like CATFM, the implementation of area navigation routes as well as the implementation of approach procedures with global navigation satellite systems have been put in place to reduce fuel burning and, in turn, carbon emissions. Besides the use of solar energy, green initiatives have also been taken at airports in the form of light-emitting diode lighting.

Future plans

To address capacity constraints at airports, AAI has drawn up a comprehensive infrastructure development plan with a capital expenditure outlay of Rs 17.5 billion for the next five years. An additional capacity of 70 mppa will be added at AAI airports by 2020-21 which will be able to cater to demand up to 2024-25 and beyond. Capacity will also be added with the revival of unserved and underserved airports under the Regional Connectivity Scheme.

Project management consultants have been roped in to expedite the detailed planning and design of infrastructure, to help with quality control and for the monitoring of planned projects. Consultancy firms have been empanelled for project management, landscaping and cityside development.

Further, AAI plans to focus on increasing the use of information technology to optimally use the existing space and improve passenger facilities at its airports. There are also plans to enhance non-aeronautical revenue to ease pressure on passengers. For this, there are plans to optimally use cityside land for airport-oriented commercial activities.

In conclusion, with the launch of the NCAP, 2016 and the focus on regional connectivity, AAI seems well prepared to enhance capacity and performance at its airports.