Austere Khattar keeps feet on the ground, says no to new aircraft

  • Hitender Rao, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 15, 2014 13:06 IST

Haryana’s first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, has turned down the proposal to buy a new state aircraft for self and the other VVIPs, including the governor.

In a signal that he would like to remain austere, Khattar, a former Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) ideologue, has shown inclination to travel either by commercial or chartered flights or by train. The new CM flew down from Delhi aboard a commercial flight recently a day after attending the swearing-in ceremony of Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

The CM told HT he had a clear view in this regard. “I feel a state aircraft does not have great utility in a state such as Haryana, which is not a very vast. Since the state government has a chopper already, it should be enough for our requirements,” Khattar said aboard Shatabdi Express on Friday.

A proposal to purchase the new aircraft from the public exchequer money was mooted during the previous Congress rule after a government Beech Super King Air B-200 crashed at the Chandigarh airport on March 27, landing on its left wing seconds after takeoff. The-then governor, Jagannath Pahadia, his wife, and eight others on board had a miraculous escape.

The-then Congress government formed a committee led by the-then finance secretary, Rajan Gupta, to look for a new flying machine. The cost could be anything between Rs 60 and 70 crore. Since many in the state government see the official airplane as essential for the CM, considering his hectic travel schedules, officials are likely to charter the airplane when the need comes.

Khattar, though, has at his disposal a twin-engine EC-145 state helicopter that the previous government had bought in 2009 from Eurocopter in Germany for 5.5 million euros (about Rs 33 crore).

Crash probe

While Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that governs air safety had initiated an inquiry into the March crash of a state aircraft, the state civil aviation officials found out that it had veered off course because of a jammed rudder possibly. The rudder is vertical control surface attached to the rear of the fin that steers the aircraft in conjunction with the ailerons.

When the accident happened, the flight was in the hands of senior executive pilot wing commander (retd) Bhushan Nanda and junior pilot captain Dinesh Bansal.

The aircraft purchased by the Congress regime in 2005 was used by the-then CM, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and the governor primarily. In 2011, it developed a snag in the left engine and underwent an overhaul at the Pratt and Whitney facility in Australia, costing a fortune to the state exchequer.

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