In a move towards innovative infrastructure, the Modi government is planning for an ‘airport’ with a highway-cum-runway! Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has spoken of the government’s plan to come up with an ‘airport’, in which the highway can be used both by vehicles and aeroplanes. The ‘airport’ is reportedly being built in Rajasthan.
At an Air Passengers’ Association of India event, Gadkari is reported to have said that “once the road is closed”, it can be used by aeroplanes to take off and land. Gadkari also said that more such airports are likely to come up in hilly areas such as Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh. Gadkari added that the construction of such airports in border areas would also help the country’s defence forces.
In June this year, Nitin Gadkari had said, “Along with defence ministry, we are thinking of a proposal. We are making our national highways of cement and concrete. We can use them as airports and are identifying sites. The vehicular traffic will be stopped when an aircraft will be landing and once it leaves, the vehicle traffic will resume.”
While the idea certainly sounds innovative, its feasibility and practical aspects can only be commented on after the government puts out more details. Meanwhile, the IAF is already testing highways and expressways as landing strips for its aircraft. Last year an IAF Mirage 2000 landed on the Yamuna Expressway. Facilities like make-shift Air Traffic Control, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties and other requirements were set up by IAF personnel from Air Force Station Agra. IAF has plans to activate more such stretches on highways in the future.