GUJSAIL: Heralding Unparalleled Growth in Aviation Sector

By Editor 09-Jun-2021

Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Limited’s (GUJSAIL) vision has been to ensure a state-of-the-art civil aviation infrastructure in Gujarat, in turn, making a key contribution in the success of the state. Over the years, GUJSAIL has been successful in enabling the growth of the air hub and aviation industry, in overseeing and promoting safety in the industry, providing services, and developing Gujarat as a Centre of excellence for aviation development, aviation knowledge and human resource development. With its limited role, GUJSAIL has been committed towards transforming Indian skies and has been well-poised to play it part herald unparalleled development of aviation sector in the country, says Captain Ajay Chauhan, Chief Executive Officer, GUJSAIL.

In an interview with Aeromag, he talks about the company’s activities and projects to boost the growth in aviation sector.

GUJSAIL is entrusted with the aim of developing critical aviation infrastructure including a world class international airport and a network of airstrips to boost aviation connectivity within Gujarat. How successful has been the company in achieving these?

With its limited role, GUJSAIL has been committed towards transforming Indian skies and has been well-poised to play it part herald unparalleled development of aviation sector in the country. May it be world-class MRO development, modernization and upgradation of airports and airstrips or development of innovative seaplane service and water aerodrome in record time, GUJSAIL’s vision has been to ensure a state-of-the-art civil aviation infrastructure in Gujarat, in turn, making a key contribution in the success of the state.

Over the years, GUJSAIL has been successful in enabling the growth of the air hub and aviation industry, in overseeing and promoting safety in the industry, providing services, and developing Gujarat as a centre of excellence for aviation development, aviation knowledge and human resource development.

Could you share with the latest projects and initiatives by GUJSAIL in the civil aviation sector aimed at its comprehensive development?

The Civil Aviation Department of Government of Gujarat and GUJSAIL have taken pathbreaking steps in launching India’s first seaplane service since the Ministry of Civil Aviation has included seaplane operations from water aerodromes under UDAN.  The Airport Authority of India (AAI) has awarded seaplane routes connecting 12 water aerodromes, three of them are in Gujarat - Sardar Sarovar Dam (Statue of Unity), Sabarmati Riverfront, Ahmedabad, and Shatrunjay Dam. 

The first-ever Seaplane Operations under the UDAN scheme is operational between Sabarmati Riverfront and Statue of Unity, Kevadia, both operational water aerodromes. Shatrunjay Dam will also have a water aerodrome soon. Other water aerodromes will also be planned in future.   

We are also working to develop new airstrips at Ankleshwar, Rajpipla, Morbi and Ambaji, and later also at Dwarka and Rajpipla.  GUJSAIL is also working on the development of permanent heliports. The Aviation Park at Rajkot will also be one of our major initiatives. Though the Pandemic has slowed down the work on the plans, we expect to start the process of planning the Aviation Park soon. 

The Park will have a museum, airstrip, training school, and helipad among other aviation related facilities. It will raise awareness among students, professionals, policymakers, and business entities about the potential of growth in the aviation sector. An Aviation Park can develop into a one-stop destination for aerospace training, research, recreation, and manufacturing as well as leasing. We also expect to have more flying schools in Gujarat.   

Also, the Government of India has identified ‘GIFT-City’ near Gujarat’s state capital of Gandhinagar, as a ‘Special Economic Zone’ (SEZ) for the promotion of air-finance and leasing business. In line with the central government policies, the Government of Gujarat also intends to set up the Drone academy which is aiming to align itself with the best international practices to establish India as a technological hub for the usage of UAS and drones in varied applications.     

GUJSAIL plans to develop land close to the proposed Ankleshwar airport for MRO and other aviation-related facilities to encourage the local entrepreneurs and companies to start such aviation-related ventures. This is in keeping with the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Vocal for Local’ initiatives of the Government.  

Gujarat has huge potential for aviation activities such as aero-sports, aero modeling activities, and Heli-tourism. What are the activities by GUJSAIL about promoting these?

We understood that at the beginning of any activity, it is important to build up interest, and awareness in the diaspora associated with such field of activity. For this reason, GUJSAIL has introduced airport activity in the curriculum of some local schools in which students are imparted training an aircraft model build-up, aerodynamics, aero model flying, etc., etc.

 Apart from this, we have also undertaken an aero sport event with huge success at Mehsana, Amreli, Ahmedabad, Rajkot with path-breaking responses from the people of the State. we are also trying to build up a plan for the NCC Air Wing to be able to attract youth who will be part of the future aviation industry.

How does Gujarat support the Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN? What are the activities by GUJSAIL to develop airports and airstrips in the state?

For any developing nation, aviation is its backbone, and for the aviation industry to grow, and be successful. Apart from defense, it is a regional sector that acts as its spine.

Regional connectivity can play an important role in making air travel accessible and affordable, and in boosting the economy of smaller cities and towns. In India, air connectivity was largely limited to metropolitan cities and some big cities or state capitals. In July 2016, the Civil Aviation Ministry of the Government of India announced National Civil Aviation Policy 2016, which encompasses UDAN-RCS, UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) which is an effort towards regional airport development, and the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) that aims to make air travel widespread.   

The Civil Aviation Department, Government of Gujarat, and GUJSAIL have been successfully executing the mandate given to the state government for the process of building new airports including giving or acquiring land f  for the new airfields, providing trained security and fire safety personnel, creating multimodal hinterland connectivity where needed, reduction in taxes where applicable, coordinate with companies to create fueling facilities and provide water, electricity and other utilities at a reduced rate with future in mind and being conscious of upcoming needs.

We are developing new airstrips at Ankleshwar, Rajpipla, Morbi, and Ambaji, and later also at Dwarka and Rajpipla.  GUJSAIL is also working on the development of permanent heliports and water aerodromes.   

What is the present status of the Seaplane service that was launched last year? Are there any plans of expanding the project?

In December 2017, the seaplane service was done by PM Shri Narendra Modi, who boarded the flight from Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad to Dharoi.  Under his guidance and the leadership of Shri Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister, Gujarat signed an MoU in 2020 with the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Govt. of India, and Airports Authority of India to start the first-ever “Seaplane Services in Gujarat” this was to provide seamless and affordable air connectivity from Sabarmati Riverfront, Ahmedabad to Statue of Unity, Kevadia. The Scheme is being implemented by the terms and conditions of a tripartite agreement between the State Government, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Govt. of India, and the Airports Authority of India. 

On the 146th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel on 31st October 2020, India's first seaplane service was inaugurated by Hon'ble PM in Gujarat. The Seaplane is operating from Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad to Kevadia where the Statue of Unity is located. The seaplane is operated by SpiceJet subsidiary “Spice Shuttle”, which is planned to operate multiple flights daily. Thus, tourists can get to the destination within 45 minutes instead of surface transport which would have taken them a driving time of about five to six hours between Ahmedabad and Kevadia depending on traffic.

Also, AAI has awarded three RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme) routes by seaplane at Sardar Sarovar Dam (Statue of Unity), Sabarmati Riverfront, Ahmedabad, and Shatrunjay Dam in Gujarat. The Gujarat Government is developing Water Aerodromes at the selected sites.  

Embedding sustainability aspect within infrastructure development by the provision of solar energy generation as well as rainwater harvesting at project sites has been a focus area? What are the activities related to this?

Over the years, our country has made huge strides to ensure access to clean and affordable energy. GoI’s push towards increasing the share of natural in the economy is promising for the overall growth of the society and economy. GUJSAIL understands the impending climate change risks and the transformation that are required to address the issue and continues to push for supporting the GoI’s commitments. As a part of this, GUJSAIl has already in the process to have a solar power plant at its headquarters for making the green and self-sustainable building. Also, GUJSAIL has made the provision to encourage renewable energy in terms of Solar Power Plant, Rain Harvesting Solid Waste management at its existing infrastructure, and future development /projects.

How does GUJSAIL support the participation of private industry in the civil aviation sector? Are there any PPP ventures?

GUJSAIL understands that private sector participation is a must for the industry to reach its best potential, and for this has always focused on the up-gradation and modernization of its airports and aviation infrastructure. GUJSAIL has made different schemes i.e. VGF, PPP, BOOT, etc.,. For any of its projects, GUJSAIL undertakes techno-commercial feasibility by a reputed consultant with a clear aim to encourage more private participation in accordance with the scheme document.

Developing support aviation infrastructures such as MRO, Aviation Training, Institutes, and Aviation Parks is another focus area of GUJSAIL. Could you talk more about it?

Developing MROs in India is essential towards the growth of the Aviation Industry. The area from which industry could gain monetarily in case of India diverted to the neighboring country which means lost business and employment opportunities in India and outflow of foreign exchange. GUJSAIL understands the reasons for such outflow and has planned for revising this trend. A present example for this MRO at Ahmedabad which has seen 60 inspections up till now in a short span of time.  This facility performs inspections, Airframe, Maintenance, and Repair of Aircraft. 

Further, Ankleshwar in Bharuch District has been earmarked as MRO Airstrip by GUJSAIL. Ankleshwar’s vantage point location with proximity to Mumbai and Ahmedabad airports places it in an advantageous position to reap in the benefits of catering to high demand. Ankleshwar being close to the shipping port and DMIC Corridor also gains greater advantage as compared to other MRO’s. Once operational, the Ankleshwar MRO will be able to serve Baroda, Surat, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Indore airports.

With all the above plans, GUJSAIL understands that Human Resources is important for this, GUJSAIL has also planned to set up Aviation Training Institute at Mehsana, Amreli Airfield equipped with world-class training facilities and the latest aviation equipment.

The state-of-the-art Aviation Park at Rajkot will also be one of our major initiatives. Though the Pandemic has slowed down the work on the plans, we expect to start the process of planning the Aviation Park soon.  The park will have features like 4D cinema, flight simulators, cargo center,  aero sports, airstrip, training school, and leasing center helipad among others. It will raise awareness among students, professionals, policymakers, and business entities about the potential of growth in the aviation sector. An Aviation Park can develop into a one-stop destination for aerospace training, research, recreation, and manufacturing. 

Could you share with us your visions and priorities for GUJSAIL as well as the state’s civil aviation sector? What are the challenges to be resolved and objectives to be achieved?

The Aviation being a central subject has to face more challenges at the State level as compared to other sectors like:  Energy, health industry, etc. For this, we visualize that there is now an absolute need for a Civil Aviation Policy at the State level. For this, GUJSAIL has already brought out a comprehensive tender. The Policy will address all the segments of aviation like MRO, Regional Connectivity, Aviation Training, Aero Sports, Manufacturing, with the clear outlined outcome. It will also give a transparent, fair, and level playing field to all those in the manufacturing of aviation products in line with the benefits being provided to other industries in the State.

The other area which looks today’s is the unavailability of trained & skilled resources in Aviation. It is not because there is no interest from students, but because of a lack of guidance to the individual. GUJSAIL plans to encourage awareness so that such resource is absorbed in aviation and not a lot to other sectors like Tourism or Industry.