Meghalaya High Court has asked India’s aviation regulatory authorities, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI), to file affidavits indicating the possibility of expanding the Shillong Airport (a.k.a. Umroi airport) to accommodate long-haul flights and larger aircraft. Expanding the existing airport will significantly boost the state’s tourism, especially by reducing the time it takes for the tourist to reach the hill state.
“Both the Airports Authority of India and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation are advised to file affidavits pointing at the feasibility of expanding the Umroi airport to accommodate long-haul flights including Boeing and similar aircraft,” said a division bench led by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee for a hearing.
During the hearing, the Bench also highlighted that the concerned authorities failed to develop any feasibility report on expanding Shillong airport to handle long-haul flights and larger aircraft, despite the state authorities spending a large sum of money to cut obstructing hills at a distance from the airport.
The Court noted that the state government is investing high costs to increase the flat ground beyond the runway on both sides by cutting down the hills. However, it’s probable that more hills will need to be cleared before a safe runway can be built to take Boeing and larger planes.
Upgrading Umroi Airport Can Boost the State’s Economy
The High Court also noted that Meghalaya has rich prospects in developing tourism.
The local economy may receive the essential boost if a plan for sustained development of the tourism industry is devised based on monitoring and regulating crucial parameters, mainly because the state has no other primary sector. The increase in tourism in the state will significantly impact the national economy.
As the tourism sector is anticipated to grow in this area, the Court ordered the two authorities to show the possibility of upgrading the Umroi airport to handle larger planes than ATRs and a cost-benefit study.
At the moment, only short-haul ATR aircraft can land at Umroi Airport. The existing runway at Shillong airport is too short to accommodate larger aircraft. The airport receives regular flights from Kolkata, Imphal, Agartala, Dibrugarh, Lengpui, Dimapur, Silchar, and Guwahati.
Guwahati is the nearest major airport, and passengers coming in larger planes land in Guwahati. By expanding Umroi airport, a tourist can land at the destination directly, and the trip time will be reduced to around 40 minutes rather than three hours.