Government considering commercial chopper service in northeast

Agartala, Oct 28 (IANS) The DoNER ministry is considering launching a commercial helicopter service in the landlocked northeastern region to improve intra-regional air connectivity, an official said here on Wednesday.

DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) Minister Jitendra Singh held a meeting with the officials of his ministry in New Delhi on Tuesday and asked them to prepare a roadmap for the proposed commercial helicopter service in the mountainous northeastern states.

“An inter-regional commercial chopper service is essential considering the poor connectivity among the eight northeastern states. The insufficient connectivity was the biggest impediment in attracting investments, boost tourism and economy besides improve the people-to-people linkages,” a Tripura transport department official quoted the DoNER minister as saying.

The official, on condition of anonymity, said the union minister told the meeting that his ministry would take up the matter with the civil aviation ministry and Pawan Hans Helicopters Company Ltd. (PHHCL).

“When regular commercial helicopter service gets commenced, passengers from any part of India and abroad who arrived at the airports of different northeastern states by any aircraft would have the option to take a connecting helicopter to go to his or her destination in the region,” the official said quoting the minister.

For many years, the North Eastern Council (NEC), a regional planning and development body and the DoNER ministry have been trying to operate a dedicated airline for the northeastern region but the idea did not materialise due to various reasons including financial viability.

PHHCL has been operating subsidised helicopter services for the past 13 years in the interior areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, with the union home ministry subsidising fares up to 75 percent.

This subsidised chopper service is mainly to ferry ministers, officials and critically ill patients.

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