Red tape holds back Hosur airport

Not many countries are as transparent as India and when parliament is in session, the questions which are asked by the members of parliament are published for every citizen to read. Some very interesting information comes out of this at times. Mr. A. Vijaykumar – a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper House of Parliament, asked about the status of Hosur airport. Hosur is close to Bengaluru but is part of Tamil Nadu – which Mr. A. Vijaykumar represents.

Hosur airport is not operational because concession agreement between Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) and Government of India restricts opening of any new or existing domestic airport within an aerial distance of 150 kms from Bengaluru for a period of 25 years. The agreement was signed in 2004 and the airport was commissioned in May 2008.

The answer further states that BIAL has agreed for a one time concession for the purpose of RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme) with specific conditions, which are not listed in the answer.

The Tamil Nadu government has requested operationalising of the airport. With bids received for the airport, a joint team of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Airports Authority of India (AAI) made a joint visit to Hosur to study the feasibility of developing passenger terminal building and apron. The expected investment is expected to be INR 30 crore.

The twist
The whole saga is full of twists and a classic example of “Red tape”. Hosur airport is owned and operated by Taneja Aerospace & Aviation Limited (TAAL). The entity has expressed its inability to invest. TAAL has requested the state government to invest in the project. There comes another twist. Infrastructure upgrade or development of private airport is not covered under “revival and development of the airport” scheme. Thus the ball now goes to the Government of Tamil Nadu to take it further.

Similar situations
Private airports and opening up airport within the 150 km radius are the two challenges here. Both, currently have precedence.

Private airports are part of RCS. Vidyanagar in the state of Karnataka, is owned and operated by JSW Steel. Regional carrier Trujet operated to Vidyanagar from Bengaluru and Hyderabad under the RCS – UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) scheme.

Bidar airport is a case more closer to Hosur. The airport is in the state of Karnataka but within 150 kms of aerial distance from Hyderabad in neighbouring Telangana. Hyderabad airport is operated by GMR group and has the similar terms like those given out to Bengaluru. The solution? GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd. (GHIAL) signed the concession agreement to the commission, operationalize and maintain the Civilian Enclave at the Bidar Airport in North Karnataka. Not only does this plug any possible revenue loss, it also increases the airport portfolio for GMR group! Trujet operated to Bidar from Bengaluru.

A similar deal can definitely be worked out with BIAL. However, that raises another challenge for BIAL. This could mean that calls will also be made to reopen HAL airport – which is right in the city of Bengaluru and BIAL has opposed it tooth and nail, even at times when the airport had to undergo closures for runway repairs or when the airport had saturated in terms of terminal and apron capacity!

Importance of Hosur
The southern and western part of Bengaluru are closer to Hosur airport, across the state border as compared to BIAL. This includes the IT hub of Electronics city – which accounts to a large percentage of traffic at BIAL – for both business and leisure.

The owner of the airfield – TAAL, is part of the Pune based Indian Seamless group and TAAL was established in 1994 as the first private sector company in the country to manufacture general aviation aircraft. To kick-off this process, TAAL entered into a collaboration with Partenavia of Italy to manufacture the six-seat twin piston-engine P68C aircraft and the eleven-seat twin turbo-prop Viator aircraft. While manufacture of Light Transport and Trainer Aircraft continues to be in TAAL’s capability, the company has since diversified its activities and has established a significant presence in many segments of the aviation and aeronautical industries in India.

The airfield also houses an MRO by Air Works India which has seen business from most Indian carriers. The 7000 feet runway is capable to handle both A320 and B737 series of aircraft.

The town is a production hub with facilities of Ashok Leyland, TVS, Titan being in the vicinity. There also is a large auto ancillary business in the area.

Can the airport start only for RCS flights?
The initial days of RCS-UDAN saw only such airports being bid which were un-served or under-served. Since then RCS-UDAN has changed a lot and this has meant that umpteen sectors are connected. This includes sectors like Kalaburagi – Hindon or Hubbali – Hindon along with short sectors like Hubbali – Goa which is a short drive away!

If Hosur opens up, it could potentially be a route for airlines to operate Hosur – Hindon! This might only be attractive for Star Air since Hindon hasn’t allowed A320 / B737 operations. Imagine, two suburbs of the cities (Bengaluru and Delhi) getting connected – a first in India! Alternately, RCS flights to Hyderabad and Chennai by a leading player could help the region connect to the entire network from there on!

Will the red tape end?
All that is needed is will to proceed and it can be done! But the answer to the parliamentary question shows how challenging it is to start an airport which is already active! Imagine what it would be like to get an inactive airport restarted! While the higher echelons in the government talk about 100 new airports, here we are struggling to operationalise one!

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