AMCHAM’s Tamil Nadu Chapter organized a breakfast meeting on ‘Reimagining the Future of Airports – Modernization of Chennai Airport’ with Dr. Sharad Kumar, Director, Chennai Airport on December 29th in Chennai. Mr. Rajan Aiyer, Chairman – Tamil Nadu Chapter, AMCHAM welcomed members and introduced the speaker. The presentation highlighted some of the constraints of the Chennai airport such as the pandemic situations space, land constraints, air space congestion, sustainability and how the pandemic caused many airlines to shut down operations. The Chennai airport is sandwiched between the railway track and the GST road on the eastern side, the defense land on the western and southern side and the Adyar river on the west. The airspace constraints are due to the proximity of the Indian Air Force station in Tambaram, the Coast Guard that operates within the airport on the northern end and the Naval base at Arakonam.
The Airport Authority is making plans to overcome these constraints by enhancing the passenger experience through self bag drop counters, biometric identity management and baggage drop off kiosks. These would lead to check in bags from numerous remote locations, wayfinding mobile apps, and an app that would allow passengers to make in-flight food, beverage, and entertainment purchases. This would result in reducing or eliminating human-to-human contact. The contactless journey is key to restoring passenger confidence and fueling a quick resurgence in air travel, all possible with existing technology.
Making the most of airport infrastructure through multiple aircraft ramp system and by demolishing the old buildings and rebuilding with underground and overground space to keep the height restrictions thus reimagining infrastructure in the airport. It’s also possible to become a leader in airport sustainability by a provision of sufficient daylight using skylight and glass façade, provision of sewage treatment plant (STP), landscaping the front part as per GRIHA rating to achieve 4-star rating in 15 acres of exterior landscape to increase the catchment of surface run-off water and use of low-environmental impact and energy efficiency materials in building interiors. On the sustainability front, the airport plans to have RET’s (rapid exit taxiways) and link taxiways – for reducing carbon emissions.
The current airport has a cross runway which cannot be used during cross winds that blow. Only the main runway can be used for wide bodied aircraft and the cross-sectional runway can handle the narrow bodied or small aircraft. This is because the runway is built across the river and there are over 500 obstacles which prevent aircraft from using the entire length of the cross runway. The current handling capacity of the airport is 17 million passengers and with additional improvements it would increase to 35 million passengers.
On the architecture front, the new terminal would imbibe the waves of a Bharatnatyam saree of the dancer and a wave like pattern would adorn the roof. On the airside, the developments would include construction of 3 rapid exit taxiways (RET) and straightening of B-taxiway as parallel taxi track suitable for code – E aircraft, construction of R taxi track left out portion, N taxi track, reconstruction and strengthening of “H” “E” Taxi track and flood mitigation works. The Chennai airport has only 1,350 acres of land while Delhi has 5,000 acres and Bengaluru and Hyderabad have 4,000 acres of land respectively. So, a new airport site has been selected but it is still to be vetted by an external consultant, land is yet to be approved and would commence only by 2025. It would take another 10 years for the airport to be commissioned. The biggest hurdle in airport expansion in India is managing the local population and getting the geological surveys done before the land is acquired.
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