Cover Story

Taking off!

June 2010

With India’s civil aviation sector growing at a fast clip, there is tremendous potential in building airport infrastructure. And though the challenges are many, the movers and shakers in the industry are ready to tackle any turbulence, as Jayanthi Nararyan discovers.

In the recent past, we’ve seen volcanic ash consistently hog more newsprint than what traditionally passes for news. It just goes to show how vital, and indispensable, civil aviation is for people, countries and economies today.

India — where civil aviation is the fastest growing arm of the country’s transport infrastructure — is no exception. With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18 per cent and 454 airports and airstrips in place in the country, of which 16 are designated as international airports, Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has stated that the aviation sector will witness revival by 2011. The results will surely become apparent in the long term.

As VP Agrawal, Chairman, The Airports Authority of India, says, “AAI has planned to incur Rs 12,964 crore for development of airport infrastructure in the country during the Eleventh Plan (2007-12). The modernisation and expansion of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport at Kolkata was taken up at an estimated cost of Rs 1,942.51 crore while that of International Airport at Chennai was taken up at a cost of Rs 1,808.25 crore.” In the area of satellite navigation the GPS aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) is being developed indigenously by AAI in collaboration with ISRO at a cost of Rs 774 crore which is expected to be fully operationalised by June 2013.

Vidya Basarkod, Vice-President - Business Development & Project Operations, Reliance Infrastructure Ltd, says, “If you want to invest in this industry it has to be a long-term plan. It has its ups and downs but will ultimately pull itself up. You should have patience and perseverance and it will pay for itself.”

End-to-end solutions

With a rise in traffic movement in December 2009 and increase in revenues by almost $ 21.4 million, the AAI seems set to accrue better margins in 2009-10, according to the latest estimates released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. This is being primarily attributed to an increase in the share of revenue from Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) and Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL). “Airports are projects of national importance,” affirms a spokesperson of DIAL. “They are not only transportation hubs but serve as catalysts to economic and commercial development of a region. Airports are often the first and last impressions that a visitor from foreign shores has of the country.”

As far as expertise in airports is concerned, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has the capacity to provide end-to-end solutions, from design to construction. “In 1976, we were involved in the construction of Abu Dhabi International airport, which was a landmark,” says DK Sen, Projects Director - Mumbai International Airport Project, L&T. “Subsequent to that, we got involved in various other small airport developments in the country. But now we are building our fourth airport in a row in a metro. Bengaluru International Airport was the first to be constructed with the public-private partnership (PPP) model. Subsequent to that, we built and commissioned Hyderabad Airport. At present, the commissioning works at Delhi International Airport are at their peak; the airport is getting ready for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in October.”

Niranjan Simha, Head - Airport - L&T Segment, L&T, adds, “Not just civil and mechanical works but even airport systems in terms of baggage handling, passenger boarding bridges, IT systems, navigational systems like plane docking systems…all these are under one umbrella. So if we have a master plan for the airport, L&T can deliver the project with all components completed.”

Super skill-sets

When it comes to the skills required for a developer, Sen says, “From the point of an EPC contractor, I think the developer will have the length and breadth of all divisions of the airport business. To tie up with individual operators, financiers, consultants and contractors and put in place the system, it requires a master plan from a very good architect. Also, developers are supposed to appoint good project management consultants. Essentially, they have to put together a good, motivated team to build an international airport. There are many external influences and factors that come in the way so it is a difficult task for a developer that demands courage.”

Any developer expects a comprehensive solution from the contractor. And the solution lies in appointing an EPC contractor who can engineer, procure and construct the project as per the employer’s requirements. “It is expected the contractor should not just be familiar but an expert at understanding and implementing the international codal requirements of IATA and ICAO,” says Sen.

Simha agrees, saying, “They should be able to offer a perfect solution and have domain knowledge so that you can rely on the back-house design teams to solve issues that come up, especially in Brownfield airports. Mumbai is one such airport.” The contractor also needs to have a vast resource back-up to keep up with the timeline. “The main reason is that airport construction is highly complex,” he adds. “It is just not a question of construction; there are many safety and operational issues.”

While designing the terminal building, it is expected that the architect and designer exhibit their knowledge of operations like check-in, passenger movement, meet-greet requirements, security check, immigration, baggage claim and handling, security system, access control, ticketing, functions of retail, and necessary support services. “The developer looks for a contractor with a strong engineering team that has expertise in all areas like structural, architectural, mechanical, fire-fighting, electrical, IT and airport-specialised systems,” says Sen. “The contractor must have all systems under one roof, either by having their own engineers or linking up with various consultants.”

On the procurement side, any developer would like a contractor with a vast network of suppliers and excellent tie-ups for sourcing the best agencies and materials in the most efficient manner from various parts of the world. And, of course, the contractor should be able to flex its muscles when it comes to execution! “Contractors with big fleets of plant and machinery, experienced engineers and huge manpower are the obvious preferences,” iterates Sen. “Apart from scale, skill sets in project management, quality assurance and environment, health and safety management become key criteria for selection of the contractor.” Needless to say, track record counts too. Contractors with experience of executing similar airport development with high quality and best engineering practices make the developer’s job simple.

Design and development

The Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (HIAL) has been ranked among the world’s top five in the annual Airport Service Quality (ASQ) passenger survey. The airport is managed by a public-private JV consisting of the GMR Group, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, the Government of Andhra Pradesh and the AAI.

The design consortium for HIAL consisted of COWI of Denmark, Aviaplan of Norway and STUP Consultants from India. “Planning is functional and responsive to business,” says Abhin Alimchandani, Director - Architecture, STUP Consultants Pvt Ltd. “Flexibility in planning for different types of aircraft is inherent in the design of HIAL.”

“Beyond the pragmatic and technical, a great part of the challenge has been to create a sense of place and identity specific to this location,” observes P Sripathy, CEO, GMR HIAL. “This is India! This is Hyderabad!” He explains that the foreigners’ traditional meeting with India is a somewhat worn-down terminal building from which you seek a rapid exit. Beyond the immediate area one often senses a notion of big trees and lush vegetation. “In our design, we have attempted to systematise these impressions to recreate the atmosphere, the ambience and the genius loci,” he explains.

“In the design of a complex structure like an airport terminal, it is of great importance to create a sequence of spaces that is perceived as attractive by the travelling public, provides easy orientation, is comfortable and at the same time contributes to a clear and simple design that is easily understood,” Sripathy adds.

“The design and construction of any airport is a challenging project as designers and developers need to balance capacity throughput with operational and service quality excellence,” says a DIAL official. Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, the eighth largest terminal building in the world, is expected to be operational in July 2010. “At Delhi, the modernisation of IGI Airport has put forth exigent issues in front of its designers and engineers especially owing to the size of the terminal and the timeframe available to build it. The goal was to build a terminal capable of handling more than 30 million passengers per annum while matching global standards. And this task was to be achieved in a timeframe of a little over three years. A steep task, considering that comparable projects across the globe have taken considerably longer to be built,” says the spokesperson of DIAL.

While Terminal 3 at Singapore’s Changi Airport, worth $ 1.75 billion and spread across nearly 4.1 million sq ft, took nearly nine years to complete, Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport, worth $ 6 billion and spread across 3.8 million sq ft, took nearly six years.

With regard to Mumbai International Airport, Sen says, “The terminal is designed in such a way that it can be constructed over the existing terminal in a phased manner with minimum impact to operations. It is designed as a ‘common user’ terminal for domestic and international travellers. The new airport that is coming up is going to be unique because of its architectural features. The client has engaged renowned architect SOM from USA for developing the interiors.”

Technology for tomorrow

Indeed, airport construction is a whole new ball game that involves the deployment of several new technologies. For instance, Reliance Infrastructure, which is developing five regional airports in Maharashtra, is adopting green methods and plans to earn carbon credits. “We are looking at a different technology for the terminal building in Baramati,” reveals Basarkod. “An Austrian firm is coming up with an ingenious technology where you can put up a low-cost terminal and go on adding modules as and when required. Apart from that, we are also looking to bring solar energy to the terminal buildings.”

It’s logical considering that all five districts where these airports are planned are high in solar energy. “Their solar radiation is so strong that you can run any kind of industry purely on solar energy,” she adds. “If we can bring down the operating cost of the terminal building, we can definitely earn some carbon credits.” According to Basarkod, thinking out of the box is the way ahead. “Traditional thinking may not work because you need low-cost investments,” she reasons. “Revenues are not very high to sustain high technology. We are looking at something that is innovative and yet manages to give you that extra edge to attract people to come and give them value for money.”

For his part, Simha says, “L&T implements a combination of various construction technologies like precast construction, specialised steel fabrication, use of innovative materials like tensile fabric, and other modern technologies. Especially in Mumbai, keeping in view the live airport in terms of people working there, space constraints and safety, these technologies play an important role.”

“Our client MIAL has constantly encouraged us to bring in the latest technologies from overseas to ensure fast-track and international quality construction,” says Sen. “Further, as this is the most complex Brownfield airport project owing to its enormous volume, limited duration, need to keep existing operations intact, landlocked premises and complex logistics, it is essential to adopt new technologies to complete the same.”

One of these technologies is ‘rubblisation’: a method by which an existing concrete pavement can be broken, recycled and replaced as sub-base into the same place. This broken and consolidated layer becomes an integral part of the subsquent concrete layer to be laid over it. This not only helps utilise existing concrete but reduces the traffic, time and energy used to remove and dispose of the existing concrete layer as well. As this is a green concept, it also helps to protect the environment.

“We were supposed to bring down the 30-m-high, four-storey Terminal 2A building to build the new terminal building at the same footprint,” explains Sen. “There are prohibited explosive methods, expensive saw cutting methods or traditional time-consuming manual dismantling methods. Considering all these constraints, we used a 200-tonne cap jaw crusher mounted on a high-reach excavator. Like a mechanical dinosaur, this machine crushes concrete and cuts reinforcement. With this technology, the whole building came down fast and safely. This technology has been used for the first time in India.”

“We are upgrading this airport to comply with code ‘F’ requirements, which means wider body aircraft like the Airbus A380 can also be operated after this renovation,” Sen continues. “For this, we need to strengthen and widen the existing runway. About 90 m of the bridge deck was strengthened from the underside using CFRP and a new RCC raft between the pier and pier/abutments was built and RCC jacketing provided on abutments and piers for the full height.” With this technique, working against all the odds using forced ventilation and utmost safety, L&T completed the work 18 days ahead of schedule. “We have also used an advanced technology called the ‘hot tapping technique’ using imported machinery to bypass ‘operating’ aviation fuel hydrant lines to avoid clashing with new terminal building construction,” he adds. This method too was adopted for the first time in an airport in India.

Coping with challenges

Despite help from technology, other challenges remain, such as mobilising and retaining skilled labour, and lack of space and planning, especially in a city like Mumbai. “Mumbai airport is the most challenging airport that we have done and it is probably the most challenging airport in the whole world,” says Simha. “This is because it is the most congested airport; it is in the heart of the city and movement is restricted.”

Delhi airport also has its own set of challenges. “It is no hidden fact that infrastructure projects of such magnitude require a massive investment of capital,” reveals the DIAL spokesperson. “While airlines are flexible in responding to this situation by rationalising routes, reducing spend on asset acquisitions and other cuts, the airport cannot respond in a similar manner owing to the long-term implications of the project. Capacity cannot be added or reduced in an airport on an immediate basis as an airline can do.”

Eventually, every airport is unique in its own way. While Bengaluru Airport was a pioneering venture for airport development under PPP model by L&T, serviceability and architectural aspects were indigenous for Hyderabad. Delhi International Airport with its 5 million sq ft area can lay claim to the biggest volume in Asia and the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport being constructed in Mumbai can boast of being the most challenging project.

Beyond the metros

But while the big-ticket airports are the ones more talked about, a quiet aviation revolution is brewing beyond the metros. “There is a huge population that is just aspiring to join the mainstream,” says Basarkod. “So why can’t you tap that? Spread awareness and give them an opportunity to fly. I am sure it will be a success story.”

Indeed, there are innumerable opportunities in the regional airports sector. “Regional airports will definitely augment growth of the region,” says ACK Nair, Airport Director, Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL). “Better connectivity should be the major aim of the industry as more and more people are going to fly in years to come. India has a population of about 1.1 billion with a middle class projected to become 600 million in 2010. If just 5 per cent of this segment shifts to air travel, it will result in 40,000 seats a day being added. Further it is easier to create air capacity than rail or road.”

According to RC Sinha, Vice-Chairman, Maharashtra Airport Development Company Ltd, “With regional cities growing in population and displaying increased economic activity and for distribution of industries from a few to many centres, regional airports are a necessity in Maharashtra. We are trying to make airports in Shirdi, Pune (Chakan), Solapur, Amravati, Gadchiroli and Dhulia.”

“Every small regional airport could become a major regional airport depending on how that area grows,” opines Simha. Regional airports will also get connected to the main metro airports. In this way, utilisation and connectivity improves everywhere. The feed to the regional airports is from the main airports or vice versa. So if you have good regional airports, you have more people travelling. The opportunity in regional airports has given AAI close to a Rs 10,000 crore spread over 40 airports. This includes modernisation, some reformations, upgrades and new ones.”

On his part, Agrawal says, “The regional airports where AAI has created the required infrastructure should be put to optimum usage to de-congest the existing metro airports. We welcome the development of regional airports as well as growth of regional airlines. which will improve the air connectivity to the existing airports of AAI as well and will promote growth of aviation in the country.”

“The government and other private investors have to start looking at Tier II and Tier III airports and develop them,” adds Basarkod. “That’s where the future is.”

Flying forward

And that future is definitely bright. “It feels nice to see strong growth in the past five years when there was a big dip that threatened airlines and airport operators,” says Simha. “I think the worst is over and all the signs point to recovery. At present, we are on a steady path of positive growth, which offers a lot for the airline industry and airport constructors.”

Nair couldn’t agree more. “Immense improvisation and expansion in the Indian airport infrastructure market coupled with active government support for private participants, particularly in Greenfield projects, have enabled the sector to take huge strides forward,” he affirms. “The long-term prospects look promising. The growth forecast for 2009-2013 for international aircraft movement is 13 per cent and domestic is 14 per cent. Domestic passenger growth is expected to be 20 per cent while international 16 per cent. And cargo growth is expected to be 12 per cent and 10 per cent for do-mestic and international respectively.”

However, Basarkod feels that there is a half-hearted attempt from private investors and the government in pushing developments faster. “The government and private investors will have to seriously look at smaller airports,” she avers. “In metros, it is difficult to have a low-cost airport that supports regional growth. You have to look beyond metros.”

Sinha maintains that airport infrastructure in the next five years need to increase by at least 200 per cent. “However, the country should be happy if we are able to develop 100 per cent airport and related infrastructure in the next five years,” he reasons. “The Civil Aviation minister is fully aware of the matter and is trying hard to improve connectivity and infrastructure. We should all wish him success in his endeavour.” CW agrees.


The Multi-Modal International Cargo Hub and Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN) is reported to be the biggest economical development project currently underway in India in terms of investment. Spread over 4,354 hectare, the project consists of two parts: an international airport to act as a cargo hub, and a SEZ with a residential zone covering a total area of 40.25 sq km on the southern end of Nagpur. The Maharashtra Government formed a special purpose entity, Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), for the development of MIHAN. With a projected target to serve 14 million passengers and handle 0.87 million tonne of cargo, this is one of the largest aviation projects in India. The estimated capital cost of the project is Rs 2,581 crore (by year 2035) and it is supposed to generate revenue worth Rs 5,280 crore.

RC Sinha, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra; Vice-Chairman & Managing Director, MADC; and CMD of MIHAN India Pvt Ltd, tells us more….

Current status: About 78 per cent of the land required for the project is in possession; 86 per cent of the infrastructure work in the area in our possession has been completed. Changi Airport Consultants Pte Ltd was appointed as a consultant to improve the airport; its final report has been received and 25 per cent of its recommendations have already been implemented. In the past eight months, the number of flights has gone up from 18 to 26 and there is a 20 per cent increase in people using the airport.

Design matters: We have appointed Changi Airport Consultants as advisor and it has suggested measures to improve passenger flow and customer satisfaction. We are in the process of appointing a new housekeeping agency to improve cleanliness. Parking has been improved. In terms of security, we are in constant touch with CISF authorities and are implementing recommendations made by them and BCAS, such as introduction of CCTV, increasing the number of observation towers and enhancing the lighting around the boundary wall. We are constructing an apron of about 26,000 sq m so more aircraft can be parked. Aerobridges will be operational very soon and will help in the flow of passengers.

Metro rail connectivity: MADC, along with the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT), Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and SICOM, has jointly established a company called Nagpur Mass Transport Company and has appointed L&T Ramboll as consultants. We are working on project feasibility and technical details. This system of rail transport will connect different parts of Nagpur city to the airport and major industrial areas. In the Nagpur Mass Transport Company, the ratio of contribution from various entities is as follows: MADC - 27.70 per cent; MIDC - 26 per cent; NIT - 21.90 per cent; NMC - 21.90 per cent; and SICOM - 2.5 per cent.

Project completion: At this stage, it is difficult to do any guesswork. A lot of homework needs to be done before the project reaches implementation stage; the biggest question is financial viability.

Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL)

Cochin International Airport, also known as Nedumbassery Airport, is the first Greenfield airport set up in the PPP model in the civil aviation infrastructure sector in India-it received investments from nearly 10,000 NRIs from 30 countries. Owned by Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL), this is the first international airport in India to be built with only a minority Central Government stake in a PPP project.

With a 3,400-m (11,200 ft) runway, the airport is the fourth busiest Indian airport in terms of international traffic. The total cost of the airport project was Rs 3.15 billion and the company holds 440 acre of prime land at its disposal for commercial deployment. An over Rs 30-billion master plan-involving the construction of an 18-hole golf course, business centre, hotel chains, malls, industrial and IT parks and logistics centre-has also been developed by CIAL to generate revenues. ACK NAIR, Airport Director, CIAL, tells us more….

Design aspects: Cochin International Airport has state-of-the-art facilities and traditionally designed architecture unique to Kerala, and has been constructed to enable any type of wide-bodied aircraft to land or take off with the least hassle. The airport has been planned in phases on a modular basis to suit future requirements and minimise initial investments to generate revenue at the earliest possible time. The ambience of the airport is warm and enchanting and the arrival hall at the domestic terminal is integrated with travel-friendly facilities and services. A built-in shopping arcade caters to a wide range of travel requisites with exclusive shops and kiosks for all the requirements of passengers.

Security architecture: Cochin International Airport has formed its own security division to manage aspects of security. The latest initiative is the inline x-ray function that will help passengers check registered baggage at the CUTE counter itself. This will avoid delays in check in. Providing leisure time for passengers will also help increase non-aeronautical revenue for the airport. Other new measures: exclusive cargo security hold area; automated city side vehicular access; and a computerised photo id for labourers networked with CISF at gates. A perimeter intrusion detection system (PIDS) will be installed shortly.

Enhancing connectivity: With India expected to witness a steep rise in passenger and freight traffic in coming years, the Government of India will have to develop new and bigger airports. As years roll by, the 98 commercial airports - six metro and 92 non-metro airports - operational in the country will prove inadequate. India will require hundreds of new airports to handle the growth in traffic arising as a result of the 18 per cent CAGR estimated by the aviation industry. The development of non-metro airports would lead to decongestion of metro airports and extension of comprehensive air connectivity. The business model of non-metro airports needs to be structured to generate sufficient revenues. This could be ensured by setting up flying schools and other revenue generating non-core activities.

Ready to fly: In spite of huge air traffic growth, only two to three per cent of India’s population has taken to air travel. This means the nation is on the threshold of aviation growth. The government estimates that the Indian aviation industry will handle over 300 million passengers per annum by 2020. The investment to upgrade existing airports and build new ones to meet the anticipated rise in passenger traffic is $ 30 billion, including the $ 9 billion already identified. As global air cargo is growing at nearly three times air passenger traffic, India will also have to focus on air cargo-related infrastructure such as warehousing and storage.

Roofing of the Terminal

The roof of an airport is integral to its identity, both functionally and aesthetically. Roofs also play a significant role in thermal insulation, energy consumption and even energy generation. As Abhin Alimchandani, Director - Architecture, STUP Consultants Pvt Ltd, says, “The modulation of the roof can substantially contribute to the building’s energy consumption and environmental performance.”

Going green

Textile architecture scores over other materials for roofing as it enables lower heat gain; and especially with certain solutions like low-e and double membranes, the requirement of air-conditioning can be brought down substantially. Ravi Mehta, Director, Sujan Impex Pvt Ltd, which represents Ferrari, France, a leading producer of architectural textiles, says, “The major advantage of using textile roofing solutions is that it allows natural light of very good quality, creating a very natural ambience, simultaneously saving day-lighting costs, as it eliminates the need for artificial lighting during daytime. Other materials like glass or polycarbonate that also allow natural light have the disadvantage of high heat gain, which necessitates high air-conditioning loads.”

In fact, airports in Mumbai and Hyderabad have adopted a textile roof. “Textile architecture is accepted as a highly environment-friendly material today, owing to the Texyloop recycling technology developed by Ferrari,” adds Mehta. “These fabrics need not be dumped into landfills at the end of their lifespan. With Texyloop, the fabric can be recycled back into PVC granules and polyester fibre in a closed loop process, which means the solvents used for this degeneration also don’t create any effluents and are reused in the cycle.”

A special roof

The wave-shaped roof of Hyderabad Airport’s terminal building has 16 skylights punctured into the ceiling. These ‘leaf’ skylights allow natural light to bathe the interiors. The translucency and light in the Airport Village - covered by a tensile roof - flow into the large, dynamic departure hall. The use of Calzip membrane for the roof allows for large self-draining surfaces, held by a large-span steel structure.

This airport roof covers an area of about 100,000 sq m with a support grid of 45 m × 36 m, forming a prominent feature in the airport. The main passenger terminal roof is in three parts with gentle, sinuous curves where one flows into the other.

“Indigenous is the way forward”

Abhin Alimchandani, Director, Architecture, STUP Consultants Pvt Ltd, talks about aspects of airport design.

Airport design means different things to different people. For example, the two airports we’re doing in Mecca and Libya are airports for kings or a dictator. The fundamental difference between an airport for a state and, let’s say, a king is that if you design an airport for a king or Sheikh he just says he wants an airport of 12-million capacity. He won’t do a proper study, an air traffic analysis - he just wants you to land in Saudi Arabia and see a great airport. It’s designed for a different purpose; it’s designed to establish the presence of the kingdom. On the other hand, an airport designed by a government may have a very different look.

People are not looking for inflexible plans and non-visibility. You need comfort, but at the same time you don’t need so many travelators, etc. People want planning that should be functional and the same time responsive to a business.

The whole process of design has changed. Normally, an architect gets a brief from a client. The design has to take into consideration the trading population of the place. As soon as you come in, one gets the view of the aircraft and there’s no anxiety from the passenger. Sustainability and operational costs are key issues especially if you are designing for a private client. Planning should be functional and responsive to business. One has to analyse which areas bring in business. Waiting period is transformed into shopping and this generates money for the airport.

The location of the runway and terminal building is very important because we want to save maximum airline fuel. That’s becoming increasingly critical. There were two state expressways, the national and state highway, and Hyderabad was planned between the two. The first terminal for 20 passengers is set; and the next for the next 20. This is what is called the twin terminal account. They may not even look similar; the trick is to minimise the areas but still keep them as per stipulations and maximise the area between the two terminal buildings to give maximum potential for real estate and catchments for business.

The great thing about Indian airports is that they are privatised and the recent ones are different from earlier airports. You need flexibility to plan for different types of aircraft, which is inherent in the design of Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (HIAL). It’s almost becoming an international prototype.

We should move from just being ‘world class’ to actually contextual and world class. Then we’ll offer a new type of airport for the world to see. A good example is Kuala Lumpur-it has a distinct character. That is something very difficult to do but we are moving towards this. I hope to see in coming years something indigenous, which does not just have an international feel but an Indian feel. It is the next step. I don’t see it in the next scheme for Delhi or Mumbai but I see the possibility in Chennai.

“Regional airports are the future of India.”

Reliance Infrastructure Ltd has won the lease rights of developing, maintaining, and upgrading five Brownfield airports in Maharashtra. Vidya Basarkod, Vice-President, Business Development & Project Operations, Reliance Infrastructure Ltd, tells us more….

Status of the airports: This was an open competitive bidding through MIDC. In October we signed the lease dead, and since then we have been developing the master plan. We have appointed international consultants Louis Berger and Knight Frank. They are in the final stages of the preparation of the report. In another month’s time, we should have a fair idea of the demand assessment and the implications for the master plan. The airports, which are Brownfield, are in Nanded, Latur, Baramati, Osmanabad and Yavatmal. They all have existing facilities and we are developing them. We have a 95-year lease.

Investments: We had promised to pay Rs 63 crore for all five projects to the government, which we did in the allotted period. It was an upfront premium for the government. And after that, whatever investment is required goes directly into the projects. So the investment plan is a function of the master plan. The investment plan is very fluid at this stage. We are firming it up. We will operate, maintain and look after the upgrade in coming years.

Non-metro airports: I see myself as a champion of these regional airports. The focus is too much on metro airports. We need to really step back and look at other airports that can feed metro airports and be independent of them. These will take away a lot of the burden from Mumbai and Delhi airports; the congestion, delays, security and safety issues. We are saying that the government and other private investors have to start looking at Tier II and Tier III airports and develop them. Regional airports are the future of India. We have really invested in this. I do not see any other private investor as committed as we are to regional airports.

Traffic potential: Right now, I don’t think it is well connected at all. It is like a Catch 22 situation. Airlines do not fly there unless they see some kind of potential. I think we should not wait till you see the potential for traffic. It will build up on its own. Airlines should see the bigger picture. If local citizens do not feel for the facility, it will be a waste.

Materials and technology: As far as building materials are considered, we have sourced all local materials. In Baramati, we are talking to a firm called The Mobile Terminal from Austria. They are coming up with ingenious technology where you can put up a low-cost terminal and go on adding modules as and when required. They have been to the site and understood the various parameters, weather conditions and capacity constraints. They will present their case to us on a mobile terminal soon. We are also examining the incorporation of solar energy into the terminal buildings to earn carbon credits.

The way forward: As long as you are rooted in the local environment with respect to technology, materials and architecture, I think you have ensured that you are environment-friendly. That is one thing that bothers big airports; they are often accused of being a huge drain on electric supply and various other resources. The Government of India and various agencies are involved in giving us mandatory services like the CNS ATM service for air traffic control, which is provided to us by Airport Authority of India. Security is provided by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS). They are sovereign services and come with great cost to airport operators. Big operators like Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad can afford them because their revenue streams are much stronger. Small airports are still struggling to find their feet. The government at the central and state level needs to look at some concession for waiving these services at least till the airports can stand on their feet. This will greatly aid commercial viability.

Readying for takeoff

Mumbai International Airport, the country’s busiest airport, is being modernised and developed by MIAL, a JV between Airports Authority of India (AAI) and a GVK-led consortium, with 26 per cent and 74 per cent equity, respectively. The modernisation and development work includes construction of a new integrated passenger terminal at Sahar, which is likely to be completed in three phases by 2012. L&T, the EPC contractor for the project, is overcoming various challenges and moving on smoothly with the work process. DK Sen, Projects Director - Mumbai International Airport Project, Larsen & Toubro, tells us how…

The challenges: MIAL is expanding its capacity to 40 million passengers per annum. But there is no extra space available for developing the new facilities. There is uncertainty on underground services like electrical and IT cables, water supply and sewage lines, fuel lines, etc. This is a very old airport and we do not have drawings showing the location of these underground services so we cannot freely excavate here. Any mistake could bring airport operations to a standstill; hence, we need to work very carefully.

A part of the existing runway goes over the Mithi river bridge, which is not capable of taking the loads of bigger aircraft (600 mt). We had to strengthen this bridge from the underside in three months without stopping aircraft movement over the bridge. The safety and security system for working within the airside also poses enormous constraints. Also, there is no space for storage, accommodating workmen or establishing the infrastructure required for execution. Workers were losing almost three to four hours daily as they were accommodated about 20 to 25 km away from the worksite and had to go through levels of security checks. We have hired a quarry for raw material production and storage, set up a steel service centre outside for processing reinforcement, taken warehouses and organised outside areas to set up our backend plans. As we function from various places, we add uncertainties to the project. And as we are working right in the heart of the city in a thickly populated area, we have to be more cautious about pollution and local industrial issues while processing these products.

The solutions: We are slowly creating space for building the new terminal by relocating existing facilities. We have made side ramps to access the international terminal and dismantled the central ramp. A new, temporary multilevel car park has been built by MIAL to clear the space occupied by the old car park, coming under the footprint of the new terminal. Extending contact gates at 2C and building an additional temporary apron have helped us dismantle the 2A terminal. This is the place where we are now building one of the piers of the new terminal.

We are laying stress on maximum prefabricated or precast construction elements to mitigate the concerns of working space restriction. Working underside and using carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) for Mithi River bridge strengthening, using a high-reach combi-crusher for dismantling the 2A terminal and ramps and segmental launching for steel roof erection are all part of our resolution techniques. For the commute of the workforce from their area of accommodation to the worksite, we have hired 30 buses from BEST. We identify risks and jointly work out mitigation measures - that’s how we are tackling these challenges.

IGI Airport - Terminal 3

Delhi International Airport (P) Ltd (DIAL) is all set to open the doors of Terminal 3 (T3), one of the largest terminals in the world. More details from DIAL…

Terminal 3 (T3) of Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, the eighth largest terminal building in the world, is spread across 5.2 million sq ft. T3, an integrated terminal handling both domestic and international flight operations, has state-of-the-art technology, facilities and infrastructure to entice passengers and visitors. The foundation stone for T3 was laid in February 2007 and all construction work is almost complete.

On track

Civil structural works at all nine levels of the building and all airport systems works have been completed and trials are underway. The building and boarding piers are now covered with glass façade, which gives the terminal its signature look. Further, the extensive usage of glass lessens dependency on artificial light during the day.

In addition, the shape of the building utilises the ‘North Light’ concept that maximises illumination while cutting down on solar gain, which normally leads to heating up of the terminal. Hence, T3, which will be operational from July 2010, requires much less electrical energy for lighting and air-conditioning compared to a conventional building of its size.

Hi-tech facilities

The Baggage Handling System (BHS) is a technological marvel; with its four sorter machines and nearly 7 km of conveyor belts, the system can cater to 12,800 bags per hour and is among the most advanced in the world. The system has automatic bag tag readers that capture the information on each individual bag. This is stored in a sort allocation computer and the baggage data is made available at any point of time. There are 41 X-ray machines in the five-level systems to ensure foolproof baggage screening and passenger safety.

Inside the building, the installation of the escalators connecting international arrivals with the departure level and the installation of 63 elevators, 34 escalators and 92 automatic walkways including eight inclined walkways has been completed. In addition, all 78 passenger boarding bridges (aerobridges) including the ones that will serve the A380 upper deck are ready. These systems ensure passenger comfort and IGI Airport will be the first airport in the country to feature them.

The development of T3 is part of the first phase of the master plan for IGI Airport, which would enable Delhi Airport to build capacity to handle 60 million passengers per annum by 2010.

Masters at work

A host of Indian and international experts were involved in the development of T3 and the new runway 29/11. Mott McDonald and HoK of the UK were the principal designers and architects of T3 while Parsons Brinckerhoff of USA was the project management consultant. Indian engineering giant L&T was the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project and Airbiz of Australia was the airport planner, while Woodhead from Australia was the interior designer.

The site chosen for the development of Terminal 3 lies adjacent to the existing international terminal of IGI Airport. The whole project site and access roads leading to the construction area had to be isolated from the rest of the airport to avoid any inconvenience to passengers and minimise the impact on operations.

The challenges

At the planning stage, it was apparent that the terminal would not only have to face the challenges presented by burgeoning traffic and service quality expectations but the forces of nature. Delhi’s geographical location marks it in Seismic Zone IV, the second most vulnerable zone. However, given the critical nature of the airport to the national capital’s strategic importance and economy, DIAL decided to build the terminal and runway 29/11 to Seismic Zone V standards prescribed for buildings located in the most vulnerable zone for earthquakes. This meant that investments, construction material, engineering design and technology all had to stack up to the most exacting standards laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

However, there were other issues that had to be resolved at the construction site. For instance, the poor soil at the runway construction site was an area of concern. This meant that the runway, which was to cater to the largest and heaviest aircraft, had to be built as thick as 3 m in places.

Procuring the material required for the runway was an enormous task in itself with many large infrastructure projects being built in and around Delhi, such as highways, stadiums and real-estate projects (all with an eye on the Commonwealth Games 2010). The IGIA T3 and runway project required an enormous amount of aggregate. Just the material required for the runway would have been sufficient to build a 75-km long, four-lane expressway! With so many projects competing for a small pool of resources, DIAL had to procure aggregate from sites as far as 300 km from the airport.

The terminal building too had its own set of challenges. Terminal 3 had to meet standards defined by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that limit the distance required by a passenger to walk from the kerbside to the aircraft. At the same time, T3 had to be built in accordance with the conditions laid down by the operations, management and development agreement (OMDA) signed between DIAL with Airports Authority of India. These conditions stipulated that 90 per cent of all passengers at T3 would board or de-board using aerobridges. To find the optimum solution to balance these two requirements, DIAL designed T3’s piers in a manner that would maximise the availability of aerobridges. At the same time, T3 has nearly 100 travelators that would effectively shorten the distance passengers would need to walk to and from the aerobridges.

DIAL’s efforts have borne fruitful results with Delhi Airport ranked the 4th best in the world in its category (15-25 mppa) and named the Best Improved Airport in the Asia-Pacific region by Airports Council International (ACI).

Terminal 3 would form just the first phase of the airport expansion. In subsequent stages, the airport will be further developed with increase in passenger demand. More terminals and runways will be added in a modular manner to form a U-shaped complex with the ultimate capacity of 100 million passengers per annum.