As surface transport continues to be a cause for concern for the people in Jammu and Kashmir, it is the air connectivity that has been adding to the worries of the travelers here during the past few winters now.
When the Jammu-Srinagar highway remained closed for most part of January and previous months as well the air travelers too were hit primarily by cancelation of flights during the first and second week of the current month. Secondly, the closure of highway has meant sky rocketing prices of air tickets which have gone out of the reach of a common man.
This month saw maximum number of flight cancellations due to bad weather conditions and poor visibility, even as little efforts are being made to run a high-end landing system at the Srinagar airport.
The flight cancellations at the Srinagar airport are happening despite it witnessing a huge footfall. The airport witnessed footfall of 22.80 lakh passengers (both incoming and outgoing) in 2017, this number was 26.9 lakh in 2018. Similarly, the footfall decreased in 2019 due to the situation here and later in 2020 when the flight operations came to a grinding halt owing to the covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the shortcomings the aviation Industry is making headway every now and then in almost all sectors, but Kashmir has been left behind in any of these advancements.
The Srinagar airport being of prime importance owing to the bad highway connectivity of the region is still lacking on various fronts which includes not having an advanced landing system that could withstand the bad weather conditions that prevail here during the winter months.
The instrumentation landing system (ILS) which is a major requirement in almost all airports especially those which have to bear the winter conditions, has not been setup on priority here.
The ILS is a ground-based instrumentation system that provides precision guidance to an aircraft approaching the runway to enable its safe landing during reduced visibility conditions.
In January this year, Srinagar airport witnessed hundreds of flight cancellations due to inclement weather. At present any aircraft needs 1300 meters visibility for landing at the Srinagar airport, however, if an advanced ILS system is put in place the visibility requirement can slip to much lower levels and flights can operate in lesser visibility with ease.
The Srinagar Airport was technically cleared for night operations and even experimental landing and taking off also proved successful but so far no headway has been made to improve on the ILS that could have provided a boost not just to local tourism but will also fuel growth for the airport as well which has for the last many years now been a loss making entity.
The present flight landings at the Srinagar Airport are able to take place till 5:30 PM during winters and 7:30 PM during summers but introduction of night-landing will allow these operations even till the late evening hours. The late evening fight operations will help to increase passenger influx which can generate much revenue for the airport to come out of the red.