Salem Airport (India)
சேலம் விமான நிலையம்
|IATA: SXV – ICAO: VOSM|
|Owner||Government of India|
|Operator||Airports Authority of India|
|Elevation AMSL||1,008 ft / 307 m|
Salem airport was constructed in April 1993 at a cost of Rs. 6 Crore covering a sprawling 136-acres extensively donated by local traders and industrialists. The airport was the first in the country built with the help of contributions from members of the public. A total of Rs. 49 lakh, including Rs. 30 lakh by Salem Steel Plant. Originally planned for Vayudoot services using small aircraft and conceived with a 1,350-metre runway, it was expanded by another 600 metres to accommodate bigger planes. Initially, NEPC Airlines operated flights on the Chennai-Salem-Coimbatore-Chennai sector using Fokker F-27 aircraft. however, the airline withdrew the service after three months citing ‘non-viability’ as its main reason. The Salem airport lay in disuse since then as no airline was willing to invest in this sector. Although the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had spruced up the airport and made it ready for operation, airlines did not show interest to fly fearing low patronage. In 2006, Air Deccan agreed to kickstart its Salem operations but only if the local industry deposited at least Rs 90 lakh or gave a commitment for 50% bookings. Meanwhile, Air Deccan merged with Kingfisher Airlines.
After a 3 year wait and prolonged negotiations, Kingfisher airlines commenced daily flights to Chennai using its ATR aircraft on 15 November 2009. The service was withdrawn on 28 October 2011, again citing poor patronage.
The reasons cited for many a time closure of Salem airport is stated to non availability of sufficient traffic. This was based on the consideration that ATR type of aircraft deployed by the airlines who tried to operate at Salem airport. Having been associated with Salem in the previous years of my job and having travelled in and out to attend to the work while employed at the Steel Plant a fair amount of insights were learned in the logistics of travelling in and out of Salem. With this background it is proposed that following suggestions may be looked into to save investments of the tax payers money as well as help the travelling public at large:-
A. Operation of Helicopter flights from Salem to Bangalore/Chennai. This is proposed for public at large. Models exists in Chattisgarh, Odisha and Andhraa Pradesh etc can be referred to. Here services of Pawan Hans from Chennai can also be utilised for Helicopter chaters. Since Bangalore is closer to Salem and no reasonable train connectivity at present, it will allow sufficient traffic from and to Bangalore including lower cost of operations. There can be a daily flight from Bangalore to Salem and then returning back or proceeding to Chennai. It can return back in the evening. If sufficient traffic is there then a daily Chennai - Salem - Bangalore sortie can be there and simultaneously a daily morning Chennai - Salem - Bangalore sortie can be there. Linking Coimbatore in operations will not be fruitful. The Helicopter can be parked at Coimbatore or Hosur to keep the cost of maintenance low. Otherwise facilities to park at the airport to be developed. The Government should pitch in by making the taxes and duties at this airport be waived for operations and fuels(ATF) at least for ten years and make it a viable business operation.
B. There are a number of big industries located in and around Salem. These include the Steel Plant and the Cement mining and producing units apart from the textile as well as government department (ADIM/Police/Judiciary) and the Political party. A small business jet having a capacity of 8 - 10 persons can be jointly purchased/owned by a few units on co-share basis. This way the requirement of travel of the senior executives can be met including travel to Mumbai or Delhi) as well as the cost of maintenance can be shared. The aircraft should be parked at Hosur or Coimbatore for keeping the cost low as well as costs of deployment easier. This can be done till the infrastructure at Salem develops. Another option is to hire a charter agency at Bangalore or Chennai to have an aircraft owned by these units on shared basis and the rest of the operations and maintenance can be worked out.
C. The charter operations can become more viable if initially begun with a smaller and cheaper ( second hand) to maintain twin engine machines be it a jet or a helicopter. The competition with road transport is extreme at Salem and the air travel should have specific USP in order to wean the customers/travellers. Shared ownership machines will help the infrastructure to grow and then the ATR or other type of aircraft can come.
Salem Airport has one runway, oriented 040/220 degrees, 6000 feet long. Its 100 by 75 metre apron is capable of handling 2 ATR aircraft while its terminal building can cater to 100 passengers. Navigational facilities at Salem include VHF radio, PAPI and an NDB. 
Flight Training and Pilot Training Centres
The excellent conditions prevailing at Salem Airport is highly suitable for flight Training. Salem Airport is now the hotspot for establishment of flight training and pilot training centres in southern India. Given the state of the art infrastructure available here, it is an ideal training airport and base for aspiring pilots. The reputed air charter operator based in Salem (Salem Air) has started pilot training services. Salem Aviation Services and the Salem Flying Club operate from Salem airport. Its already a home to two flying schools based at Salem.
- Airport information for VOMM at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
- Airport information for MAA at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective Oct. 2006).
- "Salem airport is all set to get a new lease of life". The Hindu. 19 August 2006. Retrieved 06 Jan 2012.
- "Salem airport back in operation after Kingfisher starts Chennai-Salem service". The Times of India. 16 November 2009. Retrieved 06 Jan 2012.
- "More flying schools land in Salem airport as commercial flights shut". The Times of India. 28 December 2011. Retrieved 06 Jan 2012.
- "AAI website".