CREDITS : Krishna Vattam, Deccan Herald
The Princely state of Mysore had developed an airstrip on the outskirts of Mysore by 1940, providing for landing of small aircraft. However, with the city being reckoned as the second fastest growing city in the State, the need for a modernized airport, providing inter-state connectivity is increasingly being felt.
Back in the Sixties and Seventies, no civic address presented to visiting Indian prime ministers, presidents or Union ministers by the City Municipal Council was complete without a request to the Centre to upgrade the airstrip. The then tourism and civil aviation minister Raj Bahadur, who participated in the Dasara celebrations in 1976, opined that Indian Airlines could run small aircraft. He also held out a promise to discuss with the State government the possibility of having a subsidiary agency to the Indian Airlines to operate aircraft from Mysore. However, the State government’s emphasis was more on interconnectivity of tourist centres within the State and had proposed the development of airstrips in Hassan, Bijapur and Ginigeri (near Hampi).
The princely state of Mysore had developed an airstrip on a 290-acre plot at Mandakalli village, about eight kms from the city on Mysore-Ooty highway, way back in 1940. But, there were no scheduled services and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and later Ms Indira Gandhi were among the dignitaries who had used this air strip for landing. Small aircraft like Dorriers could land too. The Civil Aviation Department took over the management of the airstrip from the State government in 1950. In 1985, Vayudoot services were introduced between Mysore and Bangalore with three flights a week. However, the services were discontinued soon for various reasons, including misgivings abut its economic viability. The Airlines opened its online offices in Mysore and appointed authorised agents for issuing tickets to Bangalore and other centres.
In the last two and a half decades, Mysore has transformed itself beyond recognition. It has shed its pensioners’ paradise and sleepy city image. More importantly, during the last two decades there has been a phenomenal upward trend in the income levels of some sections of society, and they have been increasingly patronising air traffic.
The Karnataka government and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) signed an MoU on Oct 7, 2005, in what was seen as a Dasara gift to the people of Mysore, to upgrade the airstrip, so as to operate in the first phase 50 to 60 seater ATR 42 type aircraft. Later plans were made to handle operations of Boeing 737 and A 320 aircraft. However, there were some modifications in the project report and two run ways, instead of one, were planned and more land was sought to be acquired and a total of 174 acres has been allotted. With the first phase of the project having been completed at a cost of Rs 60 crore, the modernised airport is now functional. During Dasara, the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation commissioned chartered flights from Bangalore bringing tourists on package trips to Mysore. Another private airliner also operated flights during Dasara.
For time being, Mysoreans need to be content with mere chartered flights and have to wait for commercial operations to commence.