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OrissabartaReport By; Bhagaban Panda

BERHAMPUR: The Centre has declined to upgrade the Rangeilunda airstrip into an airport. This was conveyed by Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel to Rajya Sabha Member Renubala Pradhan recently. "The Airports Authority of India has not conducted any survey to upgrade any airstrip in the state. It has no plan to develop the airstrip at Rangeilunda near Berhampur,"Patel had said. Many organizations and some political parties have been pressing for upgradation of the airstrip at Rangeilunda near Berhampur.

The airport near Berhampur is considered necessary for lack of air communication facilities to Southern Orissa. As a result, IT companies are reluctant to open their shops here. "Upgradation of airstrip at Rangeilunda is necessary for development of Ganjam,” Gopalpur MLA P.K.Panigrahi.Plans is afoot to develop states second flying training institute at Rangeilunda airstrip near here. The Ministry of Civil Aviation wants to use Rangeilunda airstrip as a flying training institute. Ms Binodini Devi, a senior captain from the ministry, visited the airstrip recently and discussed the project with engineers of the works department here, Ganjam district Collector Mr. V.K Pandian said. Orissa's first flying training institute is in Bhubaneswar. A senior pilot of the ministry also visited the site and asked the works engineer to develop it as a Visual Flight Rule (VFR) airstrip and to provide at least two rooms to conduct the pilot training institute. "We  have agreed to provide all necessary infrastructure facilities to the ministry to use Rangeilunda airstrip as a flying training institute," Mr. Pandian said. The airstrip has a 720 meter runway facility, besides a large area for parking. The works department recently constructed the boundary wall, which is one of the components for the pilot training institute, executive engineer, Berhampur (Division-II) Mr. P.K Das said. The work has already started to make the airstrip as VFR airstrip and all the relative reports are expected to be submitted soon, Mr. Das said. After it develops, Rangeilunda would be the second pilot training institute in the state after Bhubaneswar, where there are 80 students taking pilot course. The civil aviation ministry mooted the second flying institute in Orissa following traffic congestion at the Biju Patnaik Airport at Bhubaneswar. At least 50 percent of students from Bhubaneswar will be diverted to the proposed pilot training institute at Rangeilunda, officials said adding there are 22 airstrip’s in the state including the one at Rangeilunda.