Sharing India's Military Airspace: Time To Test The Waters

Thursday, 11th June 2015 at 09:38am

The ministry of civil aviation and defence may soon allow sharing of military airspace with commercial air carriers but a decision has yet to be reached. Meantime, the ministry will test the waters first before making any commitment.

Test flights have already been launched and air carriers like IndiGo and SpiceJet took part in this initiative.

The benefits of sharing airspace include shorter flight duration, heightened direct flights, and annual savings on fuel costs by as much as 5 percent.

SpiceJet COO Sanjiv Kapoor strongly backs government's plans for flexible airspace, stating that everybody wins if the plan pushes through. Passengers benefit from shorter flights and airlines will consume less fuel thus leading to less carbon emissions.

Incidentally, SpiceJet was the first to run a test flight.

Meanwhile, a top official of IndiGo also lauded government's move and cited that the airline invested considerable time in perfecting the manual which eventually got the ministry's approval.

Last week, SpiceJet used the test route which entails flying over Hindan and Sarsawa air force bases.

After the flight, SpiceJet found out that using this new route would mean saving more than 300 litres of fuel in total. In terms of flight time, the route proved to be shorter by around 13 minutes.

Bigger savings are expected of other new test routes. Flying to Dubai, for instance, would entail flying over Pakistan and Bahrain. But with flexible airspace, SpiceJet can go to Dubai using the shorter Muscat route.

Air carriers of India spend about Rs 19,000 annually on fuel alone, with fuel expenses eating up more than a third of operating expenses. Jet fuel is a lot more expensive in India because of steep taxes.

If the military airspace is freed up, airlines could save about more than Rs 12,000 worth of fuel on each flight.

Sharing of airspace once implemented will have limitations. Certain air routes will be declared as open for all commercial flights while other routes will have to be applied for first by commercial airlines. Still, for other routes India's military will be given priority but may still be opened to commercial flights if necessary.

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