The Airport Authority plans to develop both civil enclaves in a phased manner, capable of handling an ultimate capacity of approximately 10 and five million passengers per annum (MPPA) at Darbhanga and Purnea, respectively.
Decks have been cleared for the construction of new civil enclaves at Darbhanga and Purnea airports, paving the way for enhanced air connectivity in Bihar.
This comes in the backdrop of the Government of Bihar signing two memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) on 5 June.
Presently the air services are functional at Darbhanga airport from a makeshift civil enclave and the MoU will pave way for the expansion of the passengers and flight handling capacity at the airport.
Similarly, the construction of the new civil enclave at Purnea Airport will also expedite the commencement of air services there, eliminating the existing hurdles.
The Airport Authority plans to develop both civil enclaves in a phased manner, capable of handling an ultimate capacity of approximately 10 million passengers per annum (MPPA) at Darbhanga and five MPPA at Purnea.
The two airports will play a crucial role in facilitating better connectivity and fostering economic growth in the region, especially in north Bihar.
Darbhanga airport in Bihar has emerged as the top airport in the country under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) — Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) since commercial flights began on 8 November 2020.
The airport has handled 14,13,510 passengers and 9,610 flights between 8 November 2020 and 15 April 2023, making it the most successful airport under the UDAN scheme.
The number of passengers rose from 1,53,232 in financial year 2020-21 to 6,19,586 in FY 2021-22 and then to 6,16,058 in FY 2022-23.
The success of north Bihar’s first airport can be gauged from the fact that Darbhanga airport earned a profit of Rs 2.10 crore in fiscal 2021-22 while the state’s other two airports, in Gaya and Patna, ran into losses during the same period.
Currently low-cost carrier Spice Jet operates from Darbhanga on three routes — Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru and IndiGo operates flight service from Darbhanga to Kolkata and Hyderabad.
The existing makeshift terminal is not capable of handling massive footfall of passengers and as such the AAI in March 2021 requested the state government to provide 54 acres for civil enclave and 24 acres for the installation of a Category-1 instrument landing system (ILS).
As per the MoU signed on Monday (5 June), the state government will provide the AAI with 76.65 acres of land for a new civil enclave at Darbhanga Airport. This includes 52.65 acres of land for construction of a new civil enclave and an additional 24 acres for CAT-1 landing system.
The state government has spent over Rs 342.4 crore on land acquisition for the development of Darbhanga airport.
The proposal for construction of civil enclave at Chunapur airbase, 10 km from Purnea town, has been in limbo for several years. The existing airbase of Indian Air Force (IAF) at Chunapur was built soon after the Indo-China war in 1962.
In 2012, flight services between Purnea and Patna and Purnea and Kolkata were started, but the services were discontinued after one year.
Now, the state government will transfer will transfer 52.18 acres of land to the AAI for the construction of the civil enclave at Purnea airport free of cost, as per the MoU.
The new airport will be a huge leap for the backward region of Seemanchal — consisting of Kishanganj, Purnea and Katihar in Bihar and Uttar Dinajpur in West Bengal. People in this part of Bihar currently travel to Bagdogra Airport in Darjeeling district in North Bengal.
Earlier in April 2023, the AAI floated tenders for the selection of consultant for new civil enclave at Darbhanga Airport.
The consultant so appointed shall be responsible for preparation of a masterplan considering future requirement for next 30 years and further engineering consultancy from concept to commissioning of infrastructure development works, required to meet the demand for initial 15 years in the first phase.
According to the bid document, the new civil enclave has to be built in 33 months which includes 7 months for planning activities, 24 months for execution and 2 months for completion.