Let me explain the following conundrum, since Dabolim Airport is under the control of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and by that virtue only the civilian enclave is set aside for commercial operations, the airport is considered to be a defense airport by the DGCA and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
In 2006, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) through its nodal agency DGCA decided to bring airport across the country under the DGCA license ambit. While all civilian airports in the country were issued DGCA license to operate an airport as per ICAO specified international standards norms; civilian enclaves functioning at defense airports were excluded from obtaining this license, as it comes under the control of the MoD and not MoCA.
Now where is the concern if an airport is not a DGCA certified and licensed airport. The concern stems up if an airport attempts to increase its international airport services by allowing international airline companies to increases its flight operations at their particular airport. In this case besides passenger load factor, cost of running an airlines operations from a particular airport and insurance are key factors an airline company keeps in mind.
Insurance is an important for an international airline company and their aircraft. An unlicensed airport does not come under the ambit of an insurance and if insurance companies do agree to insure an aircraft traveling to a non-licensed airport then the insurance premium is normally very high, and at times it makes the entire airline operations from that particular airport unviable and also highly risky in case of any airline mishaps.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that with airports operating in close proximity and both aiming at targeting domestic and international air-passenger traffic such as the case with Dabolim & Mopa, the question of selection of either of the airports will depend heavily on the airport being licensed by DGCA and ICAO equivalent certified. Also importantly Mopa Airport will developed and operated by a private entity, therefore it will undoubtedly have to be cleared for DGCA license and ICAO certified standards.
Currently it is learnt that the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Ministry of Defense (MoD) are in dialogue to brings those civilian enclaves at Defense airports under the ambit of a DGCA license but so far no decision has been arrived and it is not known how soon it would be arrived at and whether MoD and MoCA will agree to such a move. Until then all civilian enclaves in Defense airports will continue to function as an non-licensed airport.
“If the Centre and State are keen to move ahead with both Dabolim and Mopa, then it would first need to secure Dabolim Airport and its future business growth prospects by bringing it under the ambit of DGCA and certifying it as a DGCA licensed airport and ICAO certification. So as to allow the civilian enclave to function as a licensed civilian airport, thereby making it economically viable and safe by international standards to international airline companies to either start or increase operations. If not it is no rocket science that eventually most airlines would prefer to operate out of Mopa airport,” expressed an aviation expert (former employee of the Central government) on condition of anonymity.