Mopa is an unsafe and inadequate airport site: EX AAI Director

He walked the talk and still does. As then Chairman, Site Selection Committee for Goa’s second airport and Executive Director AAI, R C Khurana recalls his first visit Mopa when he was shown barren land but he chose to walk and discover Mopa full of greenery. Known as the man who first raised the red flag saying the site wasn’t safe, he still says the same, in an exclusive chat with The Goan, on his visit here to participate in the public debate on various critical issues of feasibility and land acquisition in Mopa organized by and partnered by The Goan and Prudent Media

Ajay Thakur I The Goan | FEBRUARY 09, 2013, 07:57 AM IST

The Goan: It is widely known that as head of the siteselection committee, your views were that the current Mopa site is unsafe.  Do you still hold the view since yoursuccessors are now fast tracking the project

RCK: We had always mooted that a good site for Goa’sexclusive civilian airport would be in a plain area so that there are no futurehandicap to expansion. No project should start with a handicap. Of course, wehad expressed our concern and reservations against Mopa which is on record. Thewhole of Civil Aviation Ministry knew that I had categorically said that Mopais unsafe and inadequate as a location in Goa’s future interest from an aviationpoint of view.

TG: Why has this never been raised? And why is it a safetyissue?

RCK: Three sides of the Mopa Plateau, East, West and Northhave sharp drops which is not safe for aircrafts landing on a tabletop mountainrunway. In fact, DGCA and Bureau of Civil Aviation Safety always have hadreservations about tabletop mountains locations. The runway itself maybe 3.5kilometre long but should have almost 5 kilometre stretch for safe aircraftmaneuvering. Mind you it was a preliminary study and we had not even measuredthe land. The land itself was restrictive and not enough for future expansiontoo. Terrain and non-availability of land for future expansion weighed againstMopa.

The Goan: Can you take us back to your visit here as theChairman of the site selection committee?

RCK: On my first visit to Mopa, I saw rocky land with shrubsand bushes. I was taken to the middle of the plateau and shown a barren stretchbut I chose to walk the whole length of the plateau. I remember seeing ditches,undulating lands. Three sides of the airport had areas which were just enoughbut not ideal for safety reasons. 

The Goan: How did the whole idea of a second airport at Mopacome about? Why so much land?

R C Khurana: Due to Dabolim having a dual purpose bothmilitary and civilian airport, there was a need for an exclusive civilianairport. Unrestricted land was needed which could be used as and when theairport expanded. If you acquired a small packet of land, the real estate wouldmove in around the airport site throttling any future expansion. So a largechunk of land was needed.

TG: ICAO too says dual airport is a second best option forGoa, yet Mopa has been pushed as an alternative is AAI right or Amman andWhitney?

RCK: Precisely. ICAO’s second best option actually meansthat Goa should have just one airport, where is the confusion then? AAI hasover hundred retired experts drawn from various fields of aviation as againstanybody else, we have local experience and that too aplenty. If we have saidthat Mopa was not appropriate we had the expertise to back it up.

TG: So why did you push Mopa at all?

RCK: The recommendations of my Committee were very clear inour report. But we are technical experts and put our opinion on record. Thereport then goes to Ministry and decisions are made on a political level. Wehad nothing to do with this. AAI did not have the money to invest in greenfieldairports that is why states were given the opportunity to take the PPP route.We knew at the back of our mind that there were no investors for Mopa but whena state keeps on pushing it with the Centre, the Ministry took a call.

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