A special look back at HAL Airport, Bangalore, India
This airport is the reason I fell in love with aviation and this airport is the reason this website even exists.
A Quick History Lesson
Well I don’t know when exactly this airport was built and I’m unable to find the date online. However the earliest photo of this airport dates back to 1947. In 1964, the Indian Government used this airport briefly for defense purposes. In the 80’s, the airport was used for commercial domestic flights and from 1997 onwards, for commercial international flights. The airport was designed to handle 3.6 million passengers per year but when the airport closed in 2008, they were handling a whopping 7.5 million passengers per year.
Down Memory Lane
My family and I moved to Bangalore (BLR) from Mumbai (BOM) around late-1996 (when I was 5 years old). We lived near the HAL airport which was then the airport in BLR. I still vividly remember flying first class on an Indian Airlines Airbus A300 from Mumbai.
Back in 1996, I used to get a good view of the aircrafts taking off and landing at the airport from my balcony. But soon, the area started to develop and there was a building constructed right in front of ours – hence blocking our view of the airport. The terrace was a treat though. We had a great view of the end of the runway and I used to go up there often (during long summer days or power blackouts) with my grandfather; who by the way is responsible for introducing me to aviation. An aviation nut himself, he used to tell me about the aircraft types that flew in, the airlines and also some procedures he was familiar with.
A few months before the airport closed, I was lucky enough to take a few pics of the action at the HAL airport from my terrace.
The Big Move
On 23 May 2008, (I guess you can call it D’day – from a very selfish point of view of course.) the airport moved to their new location in Devanahalli. The move has done wonders to BLR. The Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) airport is now able to accommodate 12 million passengers per year and 2011 they handled a record of 12.6 million passengers making it the fourth busiest airport in the country. New features of the airport included more aerobridges, 12 of them to be exact, (way better than just 2 they had at the HAL airport). There are lounges for first and business class passengers and a more upgraded cargo handling facilities. Last I heard, they were expanding the airport to handle more passengers.
Despite the distance, they have a bus service (serviced by Volvo buses) called Vayu Vajra that connects various parts of the city to the new airport.
Anyway enough of the new airport…this article is about the old HAL airport right?
So What’s HAL Airport like today?
Well, the airport is now heavily used (keyword: heavily) by HAL for their test flights. HAL has its helicopter division in BLR and they also offer MRO services for the Indian Air Force. So anytime I go back to BLR, I wake up to some fighter jet taking off or helicopters flying around my neighborhood.
On the civilian side, this airport is still used by business jets
During one of my trips to BLR, a few months after the airport closed, I took these pictures of the airport terminal and the surrounding areas…..The whole area felt like a ghost town. All the pictures below are taken with my mobile phone (Sony Ericcson K750i).
Now lets take a look inside
The surrounding areas
Everytime I visit BLR, I do miss hearing jets take-off and land every few minutes. Well, I don’t know what’s in store for this airport in the future but I know that the version of this airport I know and loved, and grew up with is probably never going to come back. On a more positive and interesting note, just as I was researching for this article, I came across a news story which stated that HAL is open to operate short sector civilian flights. (YAY!)
For further information check out these websites
HAL Airport Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HAL_Bangalore_International_Airport
New Bengaluru International Airport wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bengaluru_International_Airport
Article on resuming short sector flights at HAL: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-02-07/news/36972360_1_hal-airport-civilian-flights-bengaluru-international-airport
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to drop a line in the comment section below or send me a PM.
Until my next post…..Happy Landings!!!