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Bengaloreuru :  Close to a decade after its closure, talks on the reopening of HAL Airport have been revived. And if all goes well, the airport will be thrown open for commercial operations of domestic flights soon.Industries minister RV Deshpande told TOI that the talks with the stakeholders were in an advanced stage and he hoped for a positive outcome.Both the state and the Centre are involved in the talks.

Among the options is an offer by the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), which owns and operates the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), to operate the HAL Airport.

“We are exploring all possible options. BIAL has asked us to allow them to operate this airport too. We will have to look into the proposal,“ said Deshpande.

The state government is also trying to get the Bidar Airport operational. Both the HAL and Bidar airports have been affected by contractual obligations with the promoters of KIA in Bengaluru and Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) in Hyderabad, respectively . BIAL is owned by several entities, with the biggest stake held by Fairfax, while GMR Group operates the Hyderabad international airport.

As per the agreement with these international airports, no commercial airport can operate within 150 km radius of these airports.

The HAL Airport was closed for scheduled flights in 2008 after KIA was commissioned and the Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad was closed after RGIA was launched in the same year. Both HAL and Begumpet airports are now being used for non-scheduled flights and chartered aircrafts.

The Bidar airport too is within 150 km of RGIA.

“The talks have been on for quite some time now, but it gained traction after the governments of Karnataka and Telangana took the initiative and the minister of civil aviation became proactive,“ said a highly placed source in the civil aviation ministry .

The source said the negotiations are happening in the backdrop of the Supreme Court holding that the Centre and states could renegotiate terms with regard to the reopening of the defunct airports.

The Karnataka High Court, in 2010, had directed the government to renegotiate the HAL Airport issue with the BIAL. Subsequently , solicitor general Gopala Subramaniam gave an undertaking to the apex court that the Centre will renegotiate with BIAL too.

“We have spoken to the CEOs of both BIAL and GMR Group, and the process is on. I wrote to the CEO of GMR Group and he in turn has written to the ministry of civil aviation,“ said Deshpande.

Ashok Gajapathi Raju, minister for civil aviation, sought to play his cards close to his chest. “I can’t talk right now on this,“ he said.

BIAL authorities said in response to a query: “We have no inputs on this matter at this point.“ A GMR spokesperson (for the Hyderabad airport) said on email: “We would not like to comment on this.“

Conflicting opinions are also said to be dogging the negotiations. “Contrary to the general perception that the HAL Airport is suitable for commercial operations, it is ideally suited for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of flights. The state government has to expedite its efforts to get an MRO facility at the HAL Airport,“ said Union minister H N Ananth Kumar. It was under Kumar’s earlier tenure as civil aviation minister that the proposal to construct KIA was cleared.

Courtesy by TIMES OF INDIA

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