Would you like to start a seaplane service from the Gateway of India to Ganpatiphule? Or perhaps a helicopter service from Gurgaon to Manali?
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has announced that his ministry is throwing open such opportunities to both foreign and Indian investors. “Come tomorrow,” Patel exclaimed. “I will clear any such proposals.”
On a visit to the HT office, Patel said his ministry had on Friday recommended that the government allow up to 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in seaplane and helicopter services.
Patel also announced that 74 per cent FDI would be allowed for cargo operations and “non-scheduled operators”, like charters. He has also recommended 100 per cent FDI for maintenance services.
“Aviation is a great economic multiplier,” Patel said. “The time has come to let the India have its full benefits.”
Patel said there were only six Indian-owned cargo planes. Big international cargo companies like UPS and Fed Ex have 500 to 600 planes. “Can you imagine the cargo services needed in India?” Asked Patel. “With Reliance, Bharti-Walmart planning retail stores across the country, you will need cargo planes to fly fresh produce and other goods.” To tap the opportunity, Jet Airways and the Deccan Chronicle Group are starting new cargo carriers, while Indian and Air India are expanding their cargo operations.
Patel said that like the telecom sector, aviation will be the sunrise sector of the future and the aviation value chain can add 50 lakh jobs. “With 250 aircraft, the sector employs 2.5 lakh people; in 10 years, you would have 2,500 aircraft. You will need engineering support, software, besides pilots and crew,” said Patel. The government will also soon come out with new procedures for aiding the creation of new cargo infrastructure, said Patel.
Patel said the international airport at Navi Mumbai could be ready by 2012, if the state government makes available the required land by the end of this year.
“We can have recourse to foreign collaborations which can bring us more aircraft and money. We will also benefit from their expertise in seaplanes, where we do not have any expertise,” said Jayant Poovaiah, executive director, Deccan Aviation, which offers helicopters on charters. “Seaplanes are great way to travel to islands (like the Andamans). But it’s expensive. You need such passengers to spend money.”