An IAF aircraft carrying oxygen cylinder arrives at Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi on Monday.

100 aircraft used; TATA Steel, Bokaro Steel together pitch in with 8,000 metric ton O2

Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi has facilitated the movement of at least 139 oxygen tankers since April 24 in a bid to help various states meet the demand for liquid medical oxygen (LMO) amid rising cases of Covid-induced hypoxia in patients, airport authorities said on Tuesday.

“About 100 Indian Airforce aircraft flew 139 empty oxygen tankers to the Ranchi airport since April 24. These tankers were then sent to various steel plants in Jharkhand for refilling, so they could be sent to various states via road or railways,” said the director of Birsa Munda Airport, Vinod Sharma.

Cryogenic oxygen containers brought to Ranchi airport by air were of capacities ranging from 10 metric tonne to 20 metric tonne, airport sources said. Transporting empty containers by air saved time and ensured that needy patients in different states got the medical oxygen they needed on time, sources claimed.

The steel majors in Jharkhand – TATA Steel and Bokaro Steel Plant – have been supplying several metric tonnes of liquor oxygen to Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and some south Indian states. More than 8000 metric ton oxygen has been supplied by the two companies to different states so far, representatives of the two companies said.

Indian Airforce aircraft such as C-17, C-130J, AN-32, IL-76, among other small aircraft, have been helping with the timely supply of medical oxygen and other essential materials during the ongoing Covid crisis. Ranchi airport has ensured landing facility for aircraft carrying medical equipment, oxygen and other essentials on a priority basis, said officials, adding that air ambulances too are given priority.

While the largest airport in Jharkhand has been contributing to India’s fight against the pandemic, passenger flights to and from the state capital have remained affected due to rapidly falling passenger traffic. At least nine flights to Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Ahmedabad were cancelled on Monday due to lack of passengers, airport authorities said.

As per data shared by the airport, as many as 543 passengers travelled to other cities from Ranchi on Monday, while 1,204 passengers landed in Ranchi. Airport authorities have also put on hold plans to start new flights to tier-2 cities due to the Covid-19 situation.