Hosur Airport May Not Be Able To Solve South Bengaluru’s Woes
The Tamil Nadu government recently announced a domestic airport at Hosur, 40 kilometre south of Bengaluru. An extension of the existing Hosur aerodrome, this proposed airport has many an odds to battle.
The Tamil Nadu government recently that it would build a domestic airport at Hosur in the Krishnagiri district, 40 kilometre south of Bengaluru. This proposed airport, is to be of the existing aerodrome that is located at Belagondapalli, 10 km southwest of Hosur.
The Hosur aerodrome, known locally as Taneja Airfield, is a private airfield owned and operated by Taneja Aerospace and Aviation Limited (TAAL) and has been in operation from 1994. It has a 2,168 metre long runway that can handle most modern aircraft including Airbus A-320s and Boeing 737s, and features night-landing facilities. The aerodrome is primarily used by Air Works India and its subsidiary Air Livery for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) as well as painting aircraft.
The argument in favour of Hosur Airport
Support for Hosur airport has existed in various forms for several years now. In the early 2000s, when the then airport serving Bengaluru, the HAL Airport was struggling to handle the crowd, the city of Bengaluru was significantly different from what it is today.
Back then, India’s Information Technology (IT) capital was vastly different in terms of the location of commercial centres. The largest concentration of IT parks and offices was in the suburb of Electronics City, 10 km south of Silk Board along Hosur Road (the Bengaluru - Kanyakumari National Highway). The region was reasonably well connected to the city as well as Hosur as Hosur Road was part of both the Golden Quadrilateral and the North-South Corridor. The second largest concentration was in Whitefield, in eastern Bengaluru, originally at the International Tech Park Limited (ITPL). Today, Whitefield is home to the Devangonthi fuel terminal from where a pipeline carries fuel to the Kempegowda International Airport in Devanahalli.
Due to the presence of IT and IT Enabled Sector (ITES) firms in the south and east of the city, Hosur Airport would have been a natural choice if Bengaluru was to get a new airport. Further, with the Bengaluru-Hosur highway being a major component of the National Highways Development Project (NHDP), connectivity also did not seem to be a problem.
In 1991, a panel convened by former Airports Authority of India (AAI) chairman S Ramanathan selected the town of Devanahalli for the new airport. The state government proposed building an airport at Devanahalli with private assistance which the centre accepted in 1994. In 1995, Karnataka signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Tata Group and Singapore Changi Airport for participating in the new airport, but it fell through in 1998. In 1999, the AAI and the Karnataka State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (KSIIDC) signed another MoU, and the Karnataka government created Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) in 2001. After a lot of delays, a concession agreement was finally signed between the centre, Karnataka and BIAL in 2004.
BIAL, along with its counterpart Hyderabad International Airport Limited (HIAL) have an exclusivity clause in their agreements.
Exclusivity International: No new or existing airport shall be permitted by GoI to be developed as, or improved or upgraded into, an International Airport within an aerial distance of 150 kilometres of the Airport before the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Airport Opening Date. Domestic: No new or existing airport (except for Mysore and Hassan airports) shall be permitted by GoI to be developed as, or improved or upgraded into, a Domestic Airport within an aerial distance of 150 kilometres of the Airport before the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Airport Opening Date.Clause 5.2 of the BIAL agreement
Further, clause 5.5 mandates that the existing airport (HAL) shuts down from the date BIAL is made operational, and that it is no longer classified as a commercial airport. HAL Airport could thus only be used in cases of emergency, VVIP movement, general aviation and defence purposes.
A similar clause is in the agreement for HIAL that mandated the closure of the Begumpet Airport for civilian operations and had the same 150 km exclusion zone. However, unlike BIAL where exceptions were granted for Mysore and Hassan for domestic purposes (even though both of them lie beyond the 150 km radius), none were made in the case of HIAL.
The Karnataka government’s proposal for commercial operations at the Air Force station in Bidar, in the north of the state has hit a dead-end for this precise reason, as the airport falls within a 150 km aerial radius of HIAL. Hosur’s aerodrome, lies barely 60 km away as the crow flies from BIAL. The exclusivity agreement mandates that no new airport–except Mysore and Hassan airports as domestic airports– can be opened till 24 May 2033.
Further, the concession agreement signed between the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and BIAL, clearly says that the Government of India shall not permit any development. As such, it can be understood that this exclusion zone extends into the territories of other states, in this case, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
However, the agreements clearly do state that the existing airports (HAL and Begumpet) can be used for general aviation purposes such as chartered flights. The agreement makes no specific mention of other airports being used for general aviation and chartered flights within the exclusion zone. TAAL has however, been using Hosur Aerodrome for chartered flights.
Aviation in Hosur made news when the government that Hosur would be among the towns covered under its flagship UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik) scheme. Hyderabad-based Turbo Megha Airways, operating under the brand name TruJet was announced as the carrier who would operate flights from Hosur to Chennai. However, the announcement that the route, along with the Bidar-Bengaluru route (also operated by TruJet) were awaiting approval.
Hosur Airport is the nearest one for several towns in the Krishnagiri, Vellore and Dharmapuri districts of Tamil Nadu. The Kempegowda International Airport is the nearest operational airport, followed by the Coimbatore International Airport.
It remains to be seen how UDAN in these two airports proceeds. Will the government classify it as Chartered Aviation due to the exclusivity clause? Is the approval that the government is waiting for from HIAL and BIAL? The Karnataka government had sought to approach HIAL to operate Bidar Airport and allow monetisation of the airport due to the clause in the agreement. The airport plan hasn’t taken off due to HIAL not granting a No-Objection Certificate (NOC). Will the MoCA settle for an NOC only for these select routes or go along with the Karnataka government’s suggestions that the two concessionaires take up the small airfields and generate revenue from them? Or, will the government make use of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP)?
Enter the NCAP
Under the NCAP that was in July 2016, the government does have an option to make exceptions to this exclusion rule. In order to do so, it needs to compensate the existing airport for each airport it decides to set up. In the case of Hosur, it is easier said than done. If such an arrangement were to be made, it would require a joint agreement between BIAL, the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, TAAL and the MoCA. Given that the current Siddaramaiah government has not exactly had a great rapport with his counterparts in Tamil Nadu (where the political leadership in itself is witnessing a turmoil), this might not be a smooth process.
However, one thing is certain : Hosur getting a commercial airport will not be much of a problem for BIAL, which by virtue of having superior infrastructure, will remain the major hub for all major flights–domestic and international– and for cargo. Hosur–while primarily serving those going to Chennai–will serve passengers from the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu, but even then, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu’s vast network of buses and the presence of the Bengaluru-Chennai national highway will nullify the effect of UDAN significantly.
Also Read: The Promise Of Pune’s New Airport: How It Can Change The City’s Fortunes
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.