Pune, 6th January 2024: Residents of Pune are voicing concerns about the city’s undersized airport, claiming it falls short in meeting the needs of the growing population and thriving IT hub, educational and industrial sectors.
The issue stems from the airport’s co-location with the Indian Air Force (IAF) base, leading to limited domestic and international flights. Flight schedules are further constrained due to the IAF’s training activities, notably with fighter jets.
Former MCCIA president, Sudhir Mehta, took to Twitter (now X) to express his views on the matter. He proposed a radical solution to address the ongoing challenges faced by Pune’s air travelers. “The way to do so (which will require immense political fortitude) is to entirely move the air force base to Purandar and/or the Yerawada Central Jail outside the city, using the entire area to build a new Civil International Airport. It not only helps with our airport but will also aid in designing a new state-of-the-art, large, and more secure airforce base and a modern central jail. Something to think about…”
Pune, with all its problems, now requires radical solutions, especially concerning our demand for better air connectivity. One radical solution, if successful, will not only resolve all our air travel woes but also address various other issues—drastically expanding the current… pic.twitter.com/1ghTUlkxnU
— Dr. Sudhir Mehta (@sudhirmehtapune) January 5, 2024
Replying to the tweet, Amit Paranjape said, “I think theoretically this is a good idea… but not a feasible one practically – given the amount of infrastructure IAF has built here over the past 80+ years. I think it will be a nonstarter. Also – the current space may not allow 2+ parallel runways, in any case.”
Aviation consultant Sanjay Lazar added, “In my recollection, I don’t think that an operational air force base has ever been moved in the history of Independent India. Lohegaon Air Base [earlier called Yerwada airfield – ref JRD Tata, (circa 1946) quoted in Siyasat] was predominantly an entire Air Force cantonment outside of Poona back then, it’s the city that encroached into that area. The entire AF infra, colonies, accommodation, schools, etc at Lohegaon would have to be relocated or the Pune citizens subsidise relocation or daily transportation – both of which are non-starters. I can’t see the Yerwada Central Jail being moved for an airport extension either, in fact, I can see the airport buildings being moved to pave the way for greater Air Force garrisons.”
He asked prominent personalities to push for the creation of a new greenfield airport. “It has been 15 years of lobbing the ball from one to another – isn’t it time we get things done ???”
Shahab Jafri lamented, “Pune Airport in its current state is worse than the local bus stands of many cities. Despite having almost no facilities, the AAI continues charging the development fees from the harangued passengers.”
Vijay pointed out, “Airport is not the real culprit for Pune’s disastrous situation today BUT ignored Public Transport Buses connecting every destination of Pune-PCMC 24/7 and very frequently like 10-15 mins.
Then Pune-Nashik Railway and Highway. Maybe a dedicated Pune-Mumbai railway up-down lines.”
Another user mentioned, “An airport so close to the city centre will put Pune in a higher league compared to cities like Bengaluru that have airports so far away from the city. Don’t see a single reason not to do it.”