Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called on the Air Force to stay alert and keep Tejgaon Airport out of the wrong hands. “This airport will never be closed,” she said while launching the Air Force Air Movement Flight’s new VIP Complex on Saturday morning at the Tejgaon Airport. “This airport belongs to our Air Force and will remain under the control of our Air Force.” The British Raj government began construction on the Tejgaon Airport in 1940, during the World War II. The airport was opened for civil use in 1945, at the end of the war.
Until 1981, the Tejgaon Airport was the one and only airport in the country. The Bangladesh Air Force currently operates the airport.
“I want to alert you to this fact,” the prime minister said. “Many are watching this location like hawks. The Air Force must use this facility such that it never falls into the wrong hands.”
“Tall buildings will not surround this facility.”
The Air Force and the military currently use the Tejgaon Airport for helicopters, training planes, jet planes and large transport aircraft. Special aid flights also operate out of the airport.
“I have repeatedly told the Air Force that people are attempting to take ownership of the surrounding area,” Hasina said. “I will prevent this as long as I am in power.”
The prime minister also encouraged more frequent use of the airport.
“We must increase our use of this facility so that it can never be taken away. We must operate planes from here so that everyone knows that it is in use. When I am no longer here they will try to take it away.”
The prime minister said that a city like Dhaka needs two airports.
“I do not want this airport to be wasted. A city like Dhaka definitely needs another airport. Since we already have an additional airport, let us make use of it.”
More space is needed for the military, she said.
Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Advisor to the Prime Minister Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, the chiefs of the armed forces and top Air Force officials attended the inauguration of the new VIP Complex at the Tejgaon Airport.
“This was once called the Tejgaon Aerodrome,” Hasina said. “I first took a trip aboard an airplane in 1956. I went with my uncle to Khulna. It was from here that I left in 1969 for Karachi, where I got a visa to travel to Italy, where my husband worked.”
The Awami League government transferred the airport to the armed forces when it came to power in 1996.
But Hasina said that the government had faced pressure to close the airport.
“We faced pressure from various quarters. Why do we need this airport? There were objections when we handed the airport over to the armed forces.”
The presence of the airport prevented large buildings to be constructed in the surrounding area, she said.
“The feasibility study for the metrorail project had initially proposed the airport be closed permanently.”
But, with the support of the Air Force chief, the metrorail plan was changed, the prime minister said.
“Otherwise 22 buildings would have been demolished.”
Hasina left by helicopter for Patuakhalis Kuakata after the event.