HYDERABAD: The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation’s (APTDC) much-hyped chopper ride over the city’s landmark destinations might well remain a dream unless some miracles happen.
Tourists were promised a spectacular aerial view of landmarks like Birla mandir, Golconda Fort, Charminar, Hussainsagar etc on a 15 minute-helicopter ride, when Tourism Minister Vatti Vasanth Kumar had launched the service on the occasion of World Tourism Day on September 27 last year. But the service has not taken off following the failure to get permission and clearances from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Chandana Khan, principal secretary, primary education, who is also incharge of tourism, clarified that the project was not scrapped. She said, “there are some problems related to DGCA clearances. As of now, I cannot comment on it, I will study the issue first. But I can say that the project is not scrapped.” An official of the service provider Deccan Aviation Pvt Ltd, who refused to reveal his identity, said ,”they (DGCA) have their own reasons for the delay in giving clearances”. However, contradicting himself, he hinted that the company had received the required permissions but couldn’t operationalise the chopper service as all their choppers were off for the Uttar Pradesh elections.
Asked why the chopper service is not operational yet, officials at the APTDC do not hesitate to put the blame on Deccan Aviation Pvt Ltd. “We have made arrangements, including the air strip, required land and counters. With that our role is complete. The service provider, Deccan Aviations Pvt Ltd, has not been able to get the NOC from DGCA, New Delhi,” said B Manohar, Dy GM, APTDC.
At the time of the launch, the then tourism secretary Jayesh Ranjan had said that the department had asked the Deccan Aviation Private Limited to get clearances needed from the relevant authorities and that they were waiting for a team of DGCA officials from Delhi to come and inspect the helipad.
The chopper, a BEL-47, which could carry up to six passengers was to take off every half-an-hour from the Lower Tank Bund. The ticket for the chopper ride was fixed at `2,950 per head. Helicopter pilot Col. (Retd) Mandeep Singh, at the time of the launch in September, had described the BEL-47 as “a small Mercedez Benz with all sorts of comforts and as one of the most advanced passenger helicopters in the world.”