The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had invited tender applications for upgrading and extension of the runway from the existing 2,250 metre to 2,905 metre two months ago. The financial bids were opened on May 27 and the work is likely to be awarded by June 30.
In reply to an RTI application, the AAI stated that the work to extend the runway by 655 metre is expected to start in the second week of July and that the completion target has been set for December 2016.
The extension will allow safe operation of wide-bodied twin engine aircraft like Airbus and attract more airline companies to start operations from the airport. Sources said the AAI will be spending Rs 66 crore on extension and re-carpeting work.
Surat was the only city in the world till 2007 with a population of over 4.6 million people and without a functioning airport. Commercial services started from Surat on May 6, 2007 with an Indian Airline Airbus 319 flight. Indian Airlines began its operations with an ATR aircraft. It recently increased the frequency between Surat and Delhi from three days to six days a week, but that too in a smaller CRJ aircraft.
The AAI stated that the runway extension and repair will be taken up in three phases. In the first phase, the runway will be extended by 655 metre. In the second and third phases respectively, 185 metre of the existing 2,250 metre long runway will be dismantled and then the entire runway will re-surfaced. Once the work on runway is completed, landing restrictions on two flights will be withdrawn.
Airport director Pramod Thakre said, “The extension of the runway will allow landing of aircraft bigger than Boeing 737 in the city.”
E H Pathan, a WWWAS member, said, “We hope that the runway extension will be completed within the stipulated time frame, so as to allow the airline companies to set up operations. This will increase flight frequencies from the airport.”