" --IANS"
Chandigarh, May 16 - Chandigarh's international airport will be available for night flight operations by February next year once the expansion of the runway is completed in phases.

Air Commodore S. Srinivasan, Air Officer Commanding (AOC), 12 Wing, Air Force Station, here told the media on Wednesday that operational facilities, including expansion of the runway from the present effective 7,200 feet to 10,400 feet, would enable bigger aircraft to land here.

By February 2019, the runway should be ready for all types of aircraft (including long-haul wide-bodied ones), Srinivasan said.

The expansion will enable operation of wide-bodied aircraft that will enable air carriers to connect the city with destinations in Europe, United States and Australia.

The runway expansion and upgradation is being carried out at a cost of Rs 450 crore.

The expanded runway will be 12,400 feet long with an effective take-off length of 10,400 feet.

The airport, under the Indian Air Force (IAF) control, is a frontline defence facility. It was closed to air traffic from May 12 till 31. It was earlier closed from February 12 to 26 for expansion and repair work.

The 20-day closure of the airport will affect over 100,000 passengers, especially during summer vacations starting in May.

The IAF has a transport unit based here that caters to the forward areas in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the higher reaches bordering Pakistan and China.

During the closure, the IAF has relocated all its aircraft to alternative bases in north India.

The Chandigarh base was established in 1961 as a major air logistics node of Indian troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir.

It has also been home to fighter squadrons deployed for air defence of sensitive Punjab sectors. With time, the base grew in size and operated heavy- and medium-lift aircraft like the AN-12, AN-32, IL-76, MI-26 and C-17 Globemaster.

The airport handles nearly 30 commercial flights daily, including international flights to Dubai, Sharjah and Bangkok.

The city is linked to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Srinagar, Jaipur and a few other cities in the domestic circuit.

The nearest civilian airports to Chandigarh are in Delhi and Amritsar, both around 250 km away.

--IANS

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