VISAKHAPATNAM: After good response to heli-tourism in the city during the festive season, the VMRDA is preparing a detailed project report for the heliport project, which will have a permanent helicopter in the city and operate it for multiple services, including as air ambulance, for rescue works, temple tourism and joyrides.
The heli-tourism service, however, is now shelved for the time being as the hot-air balloon festival is going on at Araku. Though the heli-tourism project has attracted many tourists, the helicopter’s services have been made limited to vacations, as there have not been many takers for it on the regular days. The heli-tourism project, which was re-launched in December during the vacation season had a permanent helipad constructed at Rushikonda by the Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region Development Authority (VMRDA) and it operated the rides from Rushikonda. This season, it has got good response, with around 150 trips a day.
However, on normal days there were not more than 20 trips a day. The same helicopter will now be used for the Araku balloon festival. “Previously we had plans for creating a permanent base in Vizag, but the demand slackened after the season. With 20-30 rides a day, it is not economical,” said P Basant Kumar, the VMRDA commissioner.
However, the VMRDA now has decided to go ahead with the big project. The authority is mulling a heliport, which will be a permanent helicopter base in Vizag. Under the heliport project, a helicopter will be always available and it will be utilised for temple tourism to Annavaram, Simhachalam, Araku tourism, medical tourism in cases of emergency and rescue works during the emergency.
While the DPR is being prepared, officials said that the helicopter, with twin engine, would cost `40 crore and around Rs 5 lakh would be required per month for the pilot. The combined sum will also include the cost of an engineer, an ambulance, fire fighting and police personnel. “Ticket prices will be nominal once the project gets approval of the Tourism department and services of heliport begin. The project is likely to begin in another three-four months,” the commissioner told TNIE.