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Srinagar airport ‘technically’ cleared for night operations after test flight

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Srinagar, Aug 09:  The Srinagar airport was “technically” cleared for night operations after first night landing and taking off of a commercial aircraft was undertaken here this evening, officials said.

A GoAir Airbus with nine members of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Indian Air Force personnel and the crew took off from the Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport this evening at 1935 hours, the officials said.

After being airborne for over 30 minutes, the aircraft successfully landed at the airport at 2015 hours after making third approach towards the runway, they said, adding that “technically it has been cleared but a final decision will be taken soon”.

Director of the Srinagar International Airport Aakash Deep Mathur said, “Everything went off smoothly and now the DGCA will meet in the national capital and discuss other modalities.”

“We are looking for a date anytime after August 15 to start the night operations,” he said.

The test flight was carried out to assess the feasibility and allied issues pertaining to landing of the aircraft during night, the officials said.

The DGCA team took off from the airport after holding a meeting at the Srinagar airport.

So far, only GoAir has opted for night slots, Mathur said.

At present, the last flight from the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir takes off at 5.45 pm. Once night flying operations begin, this is expected to be extended till 10 pm.

The Srinagar airport, which was given international status in 2005 and is the main airport in the Kashmir Valley, handles 38 domestic flights a day. The only international flights operating from the airport are during the Hajj pilgrimage.

The proposal for night flights in Srinagar was mooted by the Omar Abdullah-led government in 2011 but was kept in abeyance as the strategically located airport is also used by the Indian Air Force.

The Centre recently decided to finalise the operations and asked the IAF to clear the decks for night flights after state Governor N N Vohra took up the matter with the ministries of defence and civil aviation, officials said.

The increase in flying hours is likely to boost the tourism sector in the state. However, airport authorities may not allow night flights during winters as part of safety measures against snow and fog, officials said.

The Jammu airport has been designated as an alternative airport in case of exigencies, they said.