Elias.P. Peter
Sudha. S. Namboothiry
    The new International Airport at Cochin is being dedicated to the nation on May 25, 1999. Built at Nedumbassery, a hamlet on the outskirts of Cochin city, the newly built airport is an outcome of the liberalisation policies of the Government of India. The Airport is the first of its kind in the country as it has been built through funds from the State Government, Non - Resident Indians, traveling public, financial institutions and airport service providers who had joined hands in the equity structure.

    Cochin, located centrally on the coast of Kerala, known as 'God's own country,' has been known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea since time immemorial because of the centuries - old maritime trading contacts with the rest of the world. Today, this city is the industrial, business and tourism capital of the State. An international airport, therefore, has been a long-felt need for this city to meet and sustain the fast growing economic development and travel demands from within the country and abroad, particularly because of the nearly two million NRIs of Kerala, living abroad. In addition, Cochin also serves as the base camp for Lakshadweep Islands which is being developed as a major tourist attraction.

    The City of Cochin, perhaps next only to Mumbai in terms of growth, abounds in public sector undertakings and agro-based commodity promotion boards. A major sea port' it is the headquarters of the Southern Naval Command.


    The existing Cochin Airport belonging to the Indian Navy is just an airfield capable of handling only Boeing - 737 operations with load restrictions on account of the limited length of its runway, obstructions and other geographical and natural constraints.

    As the expansion of this airport to facilitate the operations of Airbus 320/AB300 was time-and cost-intensive due to land reclamation from sea and change of runway orientation to avoid obstructions, the Airports Authority of India (AAI), after examining all factors favoured the construction of a new airport at a new location as the most ideal solution in respect of air safety, economy and time considerations. Thus, the tiny village of Nebumbassery was cleared as the most suitable location for the construction of an international airport. However, as the AAI expressed its inability to invest the kind of funds required for construction of such an airport, other means of mobilising fund had to be worked out.

    The district collector of Ernakulam (Cochin) submitted a preliminary project report for the new airport at an estimated cost of Rs. 100 crore at 1992 price level with a target to commission the new airport by August, 1997. This preliminary report was approved by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, in April 1993. The Government of Kerala accorded sanction for the proposed airport in May, 1993 and accepted the recommendation of the district collector for registering a society to implement the project.

    The preliminary project report proposed to accept interest-free loans from Non-Resident Indians working abroad, donations from major industrial undertakings, small scale units, exporters, cooperative societies and loans from the State government. A body called the Cochin International Airport Society under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister of Kerala was registered in July, 1993. For several reasons including fund mobilisation as well as administrative convenience, a public limited company under the name Cochin International Airport Ltd. (CIAL) was registered in March, 1994 with an authorised capital of Rs. 90 crore.

    The Board of Directors included political leaders, industrialists, NRIs and representatives of financial institutions. The project cost of Rs. 230 crore was financed by an equity of Rs. 90 crore and term loan of Rs. 140 crore. The State Government and its undertakings jointly invested 51 per cent of the equity and the balance has been invested by State Bank of Travancore, Federal Bank, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., Air India, NRIs and general public. Nearly 10,000 persons of Indian origin working in 30 countries spread over Asia, Europe, Africa, a North America and Australia invested in the project and became shareholders with the hope of reducing travel cost and time besides avoiding inconvenience they were facing during air travel.

    The Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), State Bank of Travancore and the Federal Bank provided the term loan of Rs. 140 crore. The Bharat Petroleum Corporation installed a fuel hydrant system at the airport for refuelling aircraft. Air India has been retained as the agency to provide ground handling services at the new airport.

    Altogether 1300 acres of land was acquired for the construction of the airport from about 2600 land owners and 822 families were resettled under a rehabilitation package. Major electric lines and an irrigation canal had to be diverted for the construction.

    As Cochin is ideally located on the international air route, a large number of foreign airlines based in Europe and other places have evinced a keen interest in operating services to and form the new airport. Major air routes like A 330, R 461, J452 and W 15 pass closer to Cochin. A good number of technical landings for refuelling are expected besides operation by charted , cargo and passenger flights.

    The airport has been built in tune with the Government of India's open sky policy to boost the aviation industry in the country as well as to meet the expectations of the people. It has been built as a most modern airport with all operational, safety and passenger amenities comparable to any important international airport. This airport can handle the operations of Boeing 747 - 400 type Jumbo Aircraft. It has an asphaltic concrete runway of 3400 metre length with enough apron space for parking eight aircraft at a time including four wide bodied jets. The airport has been equipped with night landing facilities for 24-hr operations Instrument Landing System (ILS) has been installed with Distance Measuring Equipment (DME). To facilitate aircraft navigation, two Doppler VORs, one at the airport site and the other at Munnar, have been installed. One non-directional beacon is also provided to meet the requirements of small aircraft that are not provided with DVOR.

    A separate Isolated Parking Bay (IPB) for aircraft under threat has been provided as per the international standards. There is parking space to accommodate 1,100 cars in addition to taxi queuing space, bus parking and other amenities like canteen, shopping complex, toilets, and telephone booths. Two separate terminals, one for domestic passengers with a floor area of 10,000 sq mts and the second for international passengers with 14,000 sq mts have been built. Both are fully air-conditioned. The international terminal is provided with a duty-free shopping area, a transit lounge, VIP rooms, executive lounge, escalators and aerobridges. Both terminals are connected with covered passage for the convenience of passengers.

    An exclusive visitors' gallery is provided in the domestic terminal. Passenger facilitation is of international standard with common check-in-counter, baggage reconciliation and boarding control systems which are all computerised and automated. Customs, immigration and security counters have also been provided. The Bharat Petroleum Corporation has been entrusted with the task of refuelling aircraft. The Corporation has introduced state-of-the-art hydrant system as in Singapore and Hongkong airports. Cochin is the third airport in the country after Mumbai and Delhi to have fuel hydrant system.

    The new international airport is a catalyst for the growing economic prosperity of the city of Cochin as well as the adjoining districts and states. The airport has excellent market prospects owing to its unique location. Due to characteristics like being a public limited company and the only planned and developed airport in the country, the Cochin International Airport can generate income from conventional and many non-conventional sources The successful completion of the airport project is expected to bring in sizable investments from Non-Resident Indians in projects of similar nature elsewhere in the country.