New Delhi: The Indian Air Force has agreed to allow the Hindon air force station to be used for regional flights from winter to back up the congested Delhi airport, aviation secretary R.N. Chaubey said on Wednesday at an aviation conference.

The air force station is located close to Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, and will soon host a civilian enclave, Chaubey said, adding that talks with GMR Infrastructure Ltd-controlled Delhi airport are also on to seek approvals.

No airport is allowed operations within 150km of Delhi airport, according to a privatization contract. Chaubey said he is very hopeful GMR will agree. “We have had conversations with them," he said.

The ministry is not looking at reopening the old Hyderabad airport and the HAL airport in Bengaluru as the new airports there are not congested.

The ministry, Chaubey said, would act on requests from airlines if they want to use a defence airfield and the matter would be taken up with the defence ministry.

The Hindon station is a single runway base and is home to Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft that form the backbone of the heavy airlift division of the Indian Air Force.

The C-17 is capable of strategic delivery of up to 170,900 pounds of personnel and/or equipment to main operating bases or forward operating locations especially on short runways like those in Ladakh, close to the Chinese border.

“There are major airports like Pune and Goa which have civilian flights. They co-exist," said Deba Mohanty, head of New Delhi-based Indike Analytics, a research firm on defence and strategic affairs.

Chaubey also said no new slots would be given at Mumbai airport in the winter season as it was already congested for the second round of UDAN, the government’s flagship regional flying scheme.

UDAN—or “Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik", which loosely translates to “let the common man fly"—proposes that at least half the seats on every flight should have a fare cap of Rs2,500 per seat per hour of flying.

Five airlines, including Air India, SpiceJet, Turbo Megha, Air Odisha and Air Deccan, were allotted 128 routes to fly in the first round by March, but only 16 routes have been operationalized so far.

The civil aviation ministry last week said it has relaxed the norms for UDAN to allow for greater connectivity.

The relaxations include dilution of the exclusivity clause mandating that only one airline may fly on one route in the initial years. The norms that restricted two airports in close proximity from participating in the bidding have also been relaxed.

IndiGo has announced it plans to buy 50 ATR planes, while SpiceJet has also signed an letter of intent to buy 50 Bombardier Q400 regional planes. Air India and SpiceJet have the biggest fleet of regional planes under this scheme. Jet Airways too flies on regional routes but did not participate in the first auction round for UDAN routes.

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