Mopa Airport Investigations: Can Dabolim Handle Wide-Bodied Aircrafts?

Successive governments in their advocacy for the need of the Mopa International Airport have categorically stated that the current Dabolim Airport does not have the facilities to cater to bigger aircrafts. GoaChronicle.com throws light on this issue and questions the successive government’s fact on this fallacy…

One of the main reasons behind the pushing of the Mopa Airport by successive governments has been the claimed inability and constraints of the Dabolim Airport to cater to the growing demand in air passenger travel that Goa is expected to experience in the coming years. This reasoning was also told to the media by the current Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar of the BJP-led government based on the feedback of his advisors. Sadly, the current CM and even the former government leaders have been misinformed or have not verified certain facts in aviation parlance about the Dabolim Airport which are available with the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Airports Authority of India (AAI).

A look into the Airports Authority of India website and its details on the Goa Dabolim Airport highlight a pertinent fact which can be understood to only people in the aviation business but the layman can be oblivious to this fact. In the Section titled ‘Parking Bays’ in clearly states that Dabolim Airport can handle the following;

1. Suitable for Code C Aircraft –  (up to 321/B737-900)

2. Suitable for Code B Aircraft – (ATR-72)

3. Suitable for Code D Aircraft – (B767/A310/A300)

4. Suitable for Code E Aircraft – (B747-400/A-340-600)

Sources in DGCA have even told GoaChronicle.com during its investigations that the new dream-liner of Air India Boeing 787 can also be serviced out of Dabolim.

The reasoning is this that Dabolim Airport is 35 acres and a part of the Civilian Enclave of the 1850 acres of the Naval Base; it has a runaway of 4000 meters.

During the Charter Season which sees a bulk of international tourists in Goa, you can see the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet from Moscow operating daily in and out of Goa. Similarly even the Airbus 340 from UK and the Boeing 777 from Europe- Moscow.  All these in aviation terms are considered to be wide-bodied aircrafts.

So it raises a few questions as to why successive governments are telling the people of Goa that Dabolim Airport cannot handle wide-bodied aircrafts.

In its current expansion in which the MoCA and AAI are spending Rs 500 crore, the up-gradation is expected to handle a minimum of 4.5 million passengers annually, in 2011-12 its current state the airport a total of 3.5 million passengers (Domestic Passengers – 2946612 and International Passengers – 578272) and considering that it is built to handle 25 million passengers annually.

More so the new expanded Dabolim Airport is to have 11 aero-bridges. The Indian Navy has also been accommodating and easing the restrictions for the civilian operations.

In fact the current operational cost of Dabolim Civilian Enclave Operations is Rs 30 crores annually, with the expansion and new up-gradation it expected to rise to close to Rs 70 crores approximately.

Lack of Goa Govt Support

Issues raised about the parking availability at the Dabolim Airport also seem misconstrued and GoaChronicle.com had exposed this in it investigations ‘The Dabolim Airport Scam’. As early as 2007, Goa government agrees to acquire land, notifies land for acquisition to be given to Airports Authority of India for Airport parking facility. But in 2011 the Government of Goa denotifies the land on objection from claimed owners of the land, it then identifies another 70,000 sqmts land for parking which turns out to be belonging to the Ministry of Defence.

In March 2011 land admeasuring 36,800 sqmts in Mormugao, Dabolim – Survey No 8/1 which was to be acquired by the Government of Goa to be given to the Airports Authority of India was de-notified through a Cabinet decision and subsequently another 70,000 sqmts of land as per Outline Development Plan (ODP-2011) for Vasco da Gama by the Mormugao Planning and Development Authority which was set aside for parking was proposed by the Government as suitable replacement option. However, the alternate land suggested by the Government of Goa belongs to the Ministry of Defence, as per records on Form I and IV of the Goa Daman and Diu Land Revenue Code 1968.

Will the new government take a call on this obvious scam perpetrated by the previous government and a matter that a civil society activist has taken to court.

Nothing ‘Chipi’ about it

Another advocated reasoning has been that the Chipi International Airport in Maharashtra on the border of Goa which is expected to create competition for the Goa Tourism and Aviation business. However, our investigations indicate Chipi Airport in Maharashtra is going to be made suitable for handling only Code C Aircraft – (up to 321/B737-900) whether it will be able to cater to Code D and Code E aircrafts is too early to say. But in a statement sometime back to the media IRB Infrastructure Developers chairman and managing director Virendra Mhaiskar (the company that won the bid to develop the Chipi Airport) categorically stated that,  “We plan to construct a class-C runway of 2,600 metres which can accommodate A-320 s or 737s.”

The Code – C category is not considered to be wide-bodied aircrafts.

Cargo Conundrum

Air Cargo as indicated by different Aviation Reports is expected grow exponentially across India. Goa too is expected to grow in this sector. Dabolim Airport’s new facility will have a Cargo handling facility and space. However, to cater to a larger growing market, this space according to Aviation Experts that GoaChronicle.com have been speaking too will in the long run not be sufficient as currently the Dabolim Civilian Enclave does not have that kind of space.

The question GoaChronicle.com continues to pose is if the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) categorically stated that dual-airport strategy is the second best option, why is the Government of Goa not answering this question of their decision to go ahead with both the Dabolim and Mopa Airport.


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