Bhuj Airport (IATA: BHJ, ICAO: VABJ) is a domestic airport located in Bhuj in the Kutch District of the state of Gujarat, India.
It is situated at an altitude of 257 feet (78 m) and occupies a total area of 832 acres (337 ha). It is located 30 miles (48 km) from the Indo-Pakistan border.
The airport was previously made up of two bunkers/buildings near the Bhuj Rudra Mata Air Force Base, with which it shares the runway. On one side of the passing road there was an Indian Airlines bunker, and on the other side a Jet Airways bunker. From there a coach would transport passengers across the Indian Air Force grounds to the small departures terminal.
The airstrip was destroyed in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, in air strikes in which Pakistani bombers dropped napalm bombs. The airfield was raided 35 times in 14 days with attacks by 92 bombs and 22 rockets. It was rebuilt during wartime by a group of 300 women from the nearby village of Madhapar who were given 72 hours to complete the task. Later the Government of India honoured these women with a cash prize of ₹ 50,000.
The airport was damaged in the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and was renovated at a cost of ₹400 million. The renovated terminal was dedicated in 2003 by then Deputy Prime Minister of India, Lal Krishna Advani.
The original ATC tower was destroyed in the earthquake and an ad hoc terminal was set up for rescue operations. It was manned by three officers of the Indian Air Force and handled as many as 800 takeoffs and landings in a four-day window. The runway itself was damaged but was repaired within hours to allow flights to land by the afternoon of 26 January itself. Equipment was flown in from places like Chandigarh and the injured were flown out to places like Pune. From the time the earthquake struck on 26 January until 5 February, Bhuj airport handled 944 takeoffs and landings, which exceeded the traffic at the Mumbai and Delhi airports combined. The Air Force flew helicopters into Bhuj and Jamnagar for evacuation as well as set up medical camps. Freight planes carrying mobile hospitals, generators, tents, and water purifiers from the United States, and blankets from Pakistan, were also flown in.
A contradictory report by Red Cross International, however, stated that power and telecommunications were unavailable and that the airport was shut.
The airport has a single terminal that handles all arrivals and departures. The terminal can handle 350 passengers at a time. The airport has 71,920 square feet (6,682 m2) area on the ground floor and 14,880 square feet (1,382 m2) on the first floor. It has two boarding gates and has the capacity for up to 200 people arriving and 200 people departing. There are four check-in counters and one security counter. There is one entry gate and one x-ray baggage scanner provided by the AAI.
The airport can handle aircraft up to the size of an Airbus A320, while the apron can accommodate two Boeing 737-800 aircraft at the same time. There is also a permanent helipad located at Bhuj Airport.
The airport has an average of 4,039 passengers arriving and 3,636 passengers departing per month.
In 2013, a report by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security stated that Bhuj Airport faced a security threat due to lack of "hand-held metal detectors" or an "explosive trace detector". The report also mentioned that the airport's CCTV cameras stored data for a limited time period.
The air traffic control unit of Bhuj airport controls and guides air traffic at Mundra airport, a private airport owned by the Adani group, located about 43 miles (70 km) away.
In 2004 the government installed a 22 acres (8.9 ha) "hill garden" between the city and the airport to promote tourism. Featuring "all kinds of rides, fun world games, two small lakes for boating atop the hill and skeleton of Asia's biggest 75-feet blue whale which was found dead in the creek area", the attraction brings in 800 to 1,000 visitors on average on Sundays and holidays.
In 2005, then Member of Parliament from Kutch, Pushpdan Gadhavi, as well as Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, made a request to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to rename the airport after revolutionary freedom fighter Shyamji Krishna Varma. Then Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel turned down the request, stating that foreigners might not be able to find the airport if it was named after someone.
Jet Airways began operating a flight between Mumbai and Bhuj in 1998. It continues to fly between the two cities as of January 2017.
In the 1930s Tata Air Lines won a government contract to run a bi-weekly service from Karachi to Colombo via Bhuj, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Tiruchirappalli. Bhuj airport earlier had a flight connecting it to Mumbai via Ahmedabad. The stoppage at Ahmedabad was later cancelled by Indian Airlines, citing lack of traffic. Indian Airlines formerly operated a flight between Mumbai and Bhuj via Jamnagar. There was a flight operated by the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines between Mumbai and Bhuj.