NEW DELHI: If you are unable to tour hilly terrains or smaller cities just because there is no flight facility, this news will lift your mood. Soon, many smaller cities not having air travel facilities will get connected through helicopter services.
In fact, the government has planned to start helicopter services in many smaller cities of the country very soon and PM Narendra Modi is likely to kick off the services in October. A senior official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation said that government has initiated Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS-UDAN) with the prime objective to facilitate and stimulate regional air connectivity by making it affordable.
“Airport Authority of India (AAI), the implementing agency, has awarded 23 proposals to selected bidders for Helicopter services covering 31 helipads or heliports in the Priority areas,” said the official. As per the scheme the priority areas are small cities of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, North Eastern Region, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands. “These areas are significant from the tourism point of view as well and we are sure that the helicopter services will benefit the tourists and the local people in a great way,” added the officer.
Officials said that promoting affordability of regional air connectivity is envisioned under RCS by supporting airline operators through concessions by Centre, state and airport operators to reduce the cost of airline operations on regional routes. Apart from this, financial support in the form of Viability Gap Funding (VGF) will promote the scheme.
To encourage helicopter operations under the scheme, the government provides viability gap funding or subsidy for 50 per cent of the seats set aside for being offered at discounted rates by the airlines and all seats up to 13 passenger seats for helicopters.
In the first bidding of UDAN services, there was no response from helicopter operators. To encourage helicopter operations, the government had last year proposed that all seats up to 13 passenger seats for helicopters will be covered under VGF and we saw positive responses from many operators,” added the official.
Officials said that government regional connectivity scheme has added around 80 airports or heliports in the country. In order to fund the subsidy, Airports Authority of India will also be providing partial contribution from its dividend share, in addition to the levy of Rs 5,000 per flight being imposed on non-RCS operations. AAI has given Rs 200 crore for RCS in the last fiscal and is going to contribute about Rs 500 crore in the next fiscal.
As per the new scheme, smaller cities of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, North Eastern Region, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands will get help increase air connectivity.