For over eight months after the inauguration of Nashik Airport in March this year, the revamped air terminal at the Ozar airport in the campus of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), about 20 km from Nashik city, is waiting for air service to be revived. If the optimism of private airline operators, who visited the HAL complex two days ago materialises, Nashik will return on the airmap after a hiatus of about five years.
The up-gradation job of the airport terminal building had been taken up jointly by the HAL and the state government in 2012. The deadline was December 2013, but it got delayed and the terminal building was inaugurated on March 3, 2014, by then Union minister Praful Patel, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. The move was largely viewed as a political move that miserably failed.
During the inauguration of Nashik Airport, everyone was talking about the “tremendous” potential of passenger traffic from Nashik as well as the use of the airport for other purposes like emergency landing and night parking of aircraft that is, at present, diverted from Mumbai to Ahmedabad.
Three weeks after the inauguration, there was a query from a private airline to explore the possibility of using the runway only for emergency landings, but it did not materialise. Eight months after the inauguration, representatives of about a dozen private airlines have now visited the airport to explore the possibility of launching air services. One private operator is planning to launch hopping flights, while another operator is planning to use the airport for training its pilots.
While the restoration of passenger service would provide air connectivity to Nashik, which is gradually transforming into a modern city, there are certain contentious issues involved. For instance, a seaplane service is in the offing which is directly going to compete with air services launched from the Ozar airport. The trial landing of a seaplane was recently conducted in the Gangapur dam water, but regular service is yet to be launched, pending some vital environmental issues. Besides, the Mumbai-Nashik highway (which is a section of the Mumbai-Agra national highway) has been widened, reducing the travel time from around five hours to three hours.
Nashik, incidentally, has two airports- one at Gandhinagar in the city, under army control and the other at Ozar- but ironically no air connectivity. The Indian Airlines had introduced a Nashik-Mumbai flight in 1972 from the Gandhinagar airport. In 1989, Vayudoot took over and operated the flights till 1992. In 1997 Span Airways revived air service by introducing a daily flight between the two cities for less than a year. There was no air service for the next eight years till Air Deccan started operating a flight daily from the Ozar airport. It was discontinued in July 2007 due to poor response. A year later, Kingfisher Airlines introduced air service in November 2008 but closed it down a year later. Since 2009, Nashik eventually vanished from the airmap.
The development has come at a time when Nashik is preparing to host the next Kumbh from July next year and the revival of the air service might provide air facility to pilgrims and tourists who can afford it. The Nashik Industries and Manufacturers’ Association (NIMA), has claimed after a survey that around 600 persons from Nashik go to Mumbai daily to catch flights in Mumbai and about 200 of them board international flights.