HAL airport at Bengaluru to reopen for commercial flights

Bengaluru's old HAL airport, closed for commercial airlines since May 2008, may well get a fresh mandate to go commercial next year.

R K Tyagi, who retires on Saturday as chairman and managing director of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, offered the hope at a valedictory news conference on Wednesday.

He said it is "fundamentally illogical" to close a working international airport that was handling 12 million passengers a year just because a new airport is coming up. HAL lost Rs1,500 crore in revenue in the last six years since the airport's closure.

He said, "The way things are going, I'm sure that in the next one year, there is ample possibility of reopening the airport for short-haul flights."

The Kempegowda International Airport at Devanahalli is planning a second runway. HAL would supplement KIA, not compete with it.

Dr Tyagi said, "We have spoken about [reopening] the HAL airport with the ministries of defence and civil aviation. Three months ago, we also wrote to the Competition Commission of India. The defence minister is also understood to have addressed the issue."

The state-owned HAL, set up mainly to indigenise India's manufacture of defence aircraft, has so far proved a signal failure, being reduced to little more than an assembly plant for foreign-made aircraft. The closure of its airstrip to commercial use has not helped its finances.

Jet trainer
On the level-2 Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), HAL's director (design) T Suvarna Raju said HAL will test-fly the modified 'spin version' in 15 days and ready it for initial operational clearance this year.

The proposed 600-acre helicopter unit at Tumkur should be ready in two years, Tyagi added.