AAI Advisor (MR), Group Captain Devinder C Mehta reports from India’s Madurai Airport.
Madurai, located on the banks of the River Vaigai, is one of India’s oldest cities, with a history dating all the way back to the Sangam period of the pre-Christian era. It was reputedly named after the nectar that flowed from the hair of Shiva (a revered religious Hindu figure) as a blessing for the new city – madhuram is the Tamil word for sweetness.
Built by the Pandyan King Kulasekara, it was the capital of a kingdom that ruled much of Southern India during the 4th Century BC and had trade links stretching as far as Greece and Rome. Madurai also became a centre for the great festivals of poetry and literature – known as the Tamil Sangams – that were being held more than 2,000 years ago.
Through the millennia, various dynasties have battled over the city. The Vijayanagars built much of the famous temple during their reign some 500 years ago. Today, the city is noted for its rich heritage, culture and historical background and is well-known amongst Hindus because of the story that Lord Shiva himself performed 64 ‘wonders’ called Thiruvilaiyadals in Madurai many centuries ago. Madurai is the busiest commercial centre in South Tamilnadu. It is famous for jasmine flowers which are sold across India. Kodaikanal is a beautiful hill resort situated nearby and the Meenatchi Amman temple is also regarded as being part of Madurai’s identity.
The Royal Indian Air Force began operating from Madurai Airport in 1942 during World War Two. More than a decade later, local demand for a commercial airport to serve the southern part of Tamilnadu led India’s civil aviation authorities to take charge of the former military base in 1956 and commercial flights began that year.
Today, Madurai Airport is the gateway to Rameswaran, renowned as the place where Lord Rama rested and prayed after his victory over the demon King Ravana. It is a sacred site for those Hindus that follow the Vaishnavite and Shaivitie traditions. The island of Rameshwaram is one of the most revered temple towns in India and an essential part of any pilgrimage for devout Hindus.
The airport is spread over an area of 512 acres and its main runway 27/09 is 7,496 x 147ft (2,285 x 45m) with a Pavement Classification Number (PCN) of 92 R/B/W/T (Rigid), 8 F/A/W/T (Flexible). This makes it suitable for aircraft in the Airbus A320 /Boeing 737-800 class and its apron has seven parking bays which can accommodate Category C types. Its runway 27 is fitted with a CAT-I ILS and the airport’s management team hopes to extend the runway to 9,000ft (2,743m) to make it suitable for widebody aircraft.
Madurai Airport has achieved ISO 9001-2008 certification for its quality management system.
New Terminal Building
As the city attracts domestic and international tourists, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) decided to assess the quality of the original infrastructure and facilities on offer. It decided that modernization was necessary and various elements of development work were completed, including strengthening both runways and the apron areas.
The old terminal building was capable of handling only 150 passengers at any given time and, with an estimated annual passenger growth rate of 28%, it was clearly incapable of handling any further increase. Consequently to keep pace with demand a new terminal building was constructed. The airport handled 361,829 domestic passengers and 7,073 aircraft movements in 2009, and this edition went to press before the 2010 figures were available.
The new integrated terminal building opened on September 12, 2010, and covers an area of 189,020 sq ft (17,560m2). During the day this glass and steel structure makes the most of the natural daylight available. The design meets world-class standards and has state-of-the-art, passenger-friendly facilities and amenities such as three airbridges, central air conditioning, escalators, public address and flight information systems (FIDS) and adequate car parking. It also boasts 16 check-in counters, four security checkpoints, plus a modern conveyor baggage departure system with inline x-ray screening and three inclined baggage claim carousals in the arrivals hall.
Built at a cost of around 1.28 billion rupees (US$28.3m), the terminal has a modular design catering for tomorrow’s needs if and when expansion is required. Current capacity is for 250 arriving and 250 departing passengers during peak hours. Given its capacity and forecast growth it should meet the projected demand up to the year 2020.
Currently the airport is served by five airlines: NACIL, Jet Airways, Paramount Airways, Kingfisher Airlines and Spice-Jet which provide connections to Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai.
Madurai is already capable of handling international flights if the demand arises.
Mr K Sangiah Pandian is a Post Graduate in Science and holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Personnel Management. Before joining Madurai Airport he served as Airport Controller at Belgaum and Jorhat Airports. He has 26 years of experience in different aviation capacities, such as communications and terminal management.