This Bombay Boy Will Help City’s 2nd Airport Take Off
R Krishna Murthy is standing on the roof of a building at Parsik Hill in Navi Mumbai. From there he gazes toward a barren patch of land and imagines a busy airport with planes flying in and out. “This is clearly the best vantage point in this area to look at the project location,” said the man who’s driving the project to build Mumbai’s second airport, many years in the making. The hope is that, with the land that’s needed almost acquired, work will shortly get under way. Murthy, 36, is in charge of Asia business development at the global aviation services division of Louis Berger Group, the main consultant for Mumbai’s planned second airport. He came to the project about six years ago, when he was asked to head to Mumbai by Guillermo Ubilla, then Louis Berger vice president. Murthy, who has a master’s degree in transport systems engineering from Virginia Tech, has been part of large projects such as a high-speed rail corridor connecting Pittsburgh to its international airport. He’s also worked at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “As an aviation simulation analyst in the planning and development department, my focus was optimising airport operations by reducing delays and improving system efficiencies. Here I also worked on the fifth parallel runway and the new international terminal,” he said. Atlanta has been the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic since 1998 and by landings and take-offs since 2005. Murthy, who calls himself a “Bombay boy”, had always kept close track of the Navi Mumbai project, so when the call came he was more than ready. “One of the reasons I got the project is because I had prepared myself so well. I had closely read the proposal document and prepared a detailed PDF file full of the salient points, priorities and potential,” he said. Murthy drew up the master plan for the airport with his team of 30 and four-five key people from Navi Mumbai’s nodal body Cidco. Planned as an alternative to the existing Mumbai airport, which has no space left to expand, the .` 14,573 crore project first faced objections from the ministry of environment and forests on its proposed location in the KopraPanvel area, considered an ecologically fragile zone. Two other sites were also ruled out before the current one at Panvel was chosen. Land acquisition has been proceeding fitfully. But negotiations with landowners are likely to be close to completion now, Murthy said. The airport will be completed in four phases, ultimately giving it an annual capacity of 60 million passengers. The first phase has been delayed by three years and will now be completed in 2018.
In his eight-and-a-half year career, the Tamil Brahmin born and brought up in Mumbai, has worked on 40 airport projects, mostly in emerging markets such as Brazil, the British Virgin Islands, China, Ecuador, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, the Philippines, Thailand and Russia. He’s also part of Louis Berger’s bids for various other projects around the globe. “I participated in a design competition for the new Beijing international airport, which will handle 150 million passengers per annum. Louis Berger along with Foster and Partners are the two shortlisted contenders for this design competition,” he said. Murthy is also project manager for the planned second airport in Goa. In 2010, he was project manager for an International Civil Aviation Organisation study for a second airport in Chennai. But working in India means commuting to the US almost every two weeks as his wife and child have stayed on there. But he’s planning to stick on until the airport is ready.