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Aero India 2009
Disused airfields a threat to national security
Ajay Bannerjee
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 12
Indian security agencies now estimate that a large number of disused or sparingly used airfields across the country could be a major threat to national security. Terror groups could use these airfields to launch an attack through the air at any installation in India like the attack on twin towers in New York in 2001.

IAF chief Fali Homi Major today made it clear that these airfields can pose a threat as a light aircraft can use them for “not so honest purposes”.

He was responding to a question if such airfields are a threat to the security here on the second day of the Aero India show today. Stationing patrols there and keeping them under the security scan is under the ambit of the state government, Major.

Separately, sources in the IAF said the Ministry of Home Affairs has asked that a list be prepared of all such airfields. The local police station SHOs has been asked to ensure that each landing and take off by a helicopter or private plane be recorded and be in the knowledge of the local police.

Just last month, the MHA had issued instructions to the states that no one should be allowed to hire a helicopter without prior permission from the local police.

More than 500 such airfields exist in the country, some of them belonging to the World War-II era when the British built landing strips. Post-independence, some of these even got proper runways for landing. A large number of these airfields do not even have a perimeter fence or a wall hence and provide for an easy access to anyone who could hijack a plane parked on the runway or choose to commander the plane to any destination desired.

The IAF chief today admitted that the complete radar coverage existed in critical areas but to cover the entire nation it would take time.

Sources explained that a problem arises when a private plane or chopper takes off with permission from the DGCA from a major airfield and lands at a report landing strip. How many days that aircraft remains parked at the remote strip is without any knowledge of any authority. From there, the pilot takes off and lands elsewhere. Till now a free for all exists.

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