CIAL at 25: The Genesis of Kochi’s International Airport

In 1991, during discussions on expanding Kochi’s naval airport, Madhavrao Jivajirao Scindia, the then Minister of Aviation and father of current Civil Aviation and Steel Minister Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, posed a simple yet profound question: “Considering the high cost, why not construct a new airport?” Little did he know that this seemingly random inquiry would pave the way for the birth of Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) in Kochi.

Cochin International Airport, or CIAL, where dreams and determination take flight literally, isn’t just a gateway to the world; it’s a symbol of community effort, innovation, and remarkable history. As it’s all ready to celebrate its silver jubilee, let’s take a journey through its fascinating story.

The story of CIAL began in November 1991 at Safdarjung during a meeting held by the Ministry of Civil Aviation discussing the expansion of Kochi’s naval airport. V J Kurian, a young IAS officer and then collector of Kochi, attended the meeting, representing the chief secretary of Kerala.

Until then, Kochi had a small airport that was a small airstrip on Willingdon Island, built around 1936 by the Kingdom of Cochin. It was used for transporting the officials who developed the Cochin Port. Later, the British converted the airstrip into a military airport to check for possible air raids on Japan. After the merger of the kingdom of Kochi with India, the Indian Navy operated the airport, allowing civilian aircraft to use the airport facilities.

With the Gulf economic boom of the 1980s, studies showed that larger aircraft like the Airbus A320 could only land if the length of the runways was expanded. Approximately the whole expense amounted to Rs 80 crore.

That is when Madhavrao Jivajirao Scindia, then minister of aviation and the father of Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, the current minister of civil aviation and steel, raised the question of a new airport.

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