New Delhi: Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari recently said that the government had plans to convert some roads into runways for aircraft landing and take-off. Both commercial and defence operations found a place in the proposal.
Given the recent Civil Aviation policy, which seeks to make air travel more affordable, this plan makes for an interesting development. It may seem unfeasible to many at first glance but the proposal talks about the conversion of roads to runways in border and remote rural areas, where vehicular traffic is low and air connectivity is either limited or absent.
Road runways, also called highway strips, are prevalent in several countries, like Germany and Taiwan, where they are used for emergency landing of defence aircraft.
Revealing more about his plan, Gadkari said that the roads-turned-runways could be closed during take-off and landing of the aircraft, and open to the public at other times. This increases the scope of the proposal greatly. For instance, the border areas in Arunachal Pradesh, which Gadkari has mentioned in his plan, can be used to build airstrips for the Air Force to use in case of, say, a Chinese incursion.
To convert a road into a runway, the road needs to be levelled, straightened, widened, and strengthened. This will prove to be an advantage for motorists as they will have better road quality, in addition to more security.
Effective cordoning off of the runway can be achieved by setting up barriers. Streetlights, medians, and telephone and power cables need to go underground.
Most important, the road must be clearly marked off as a runway. Runway edge lights must be provided at the periphery, along with approach lights on either end. These lights could also be used for street lighting, if required.
Security and aviation arrangements can be made by building necessary infrastructure nearby, say along a section of the road to which a taxiway can easily connect. This taxiway can be shut off in the absence of arrival or departure of a flight.
As far as the plan goes, the runway will most likely be equipped to accommodate smaller aircraft like an ATR, Mirage, or a Dornier.