Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel on Saturday, sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's support for acquiring new aircraft for the national carriers, over and above the 111 planes for which the combined Air India-Indian entity has placed orders.
Addressing a function presided over by the Prime Minister at the launch of new Air India fleet in the Capital, Patel said though all the new planes ordered by the national carriers would arrive in the next three years, the requirement would increase, given the sharp growth in the aviation sector.
"If we have to look ahead for growth, we will have to revisit the entire fleet requirement.I will urge the government and the Prime Minister to look into this aspect," he said.
Later talking to reporters, Patel said his ministry would soon submit a proposal to the Planning Commission for sanction of new aircraft to meet the needs of state-owned carriers after 2011.
Air India Chairman and Managing Director V Thulasidas said the proposal to the Planning Commission would indicate requirement of about 60 planes of all sizes depending on demands of different segments.
Earlier, the Prime Minister launched the new fleet of Air India that included long-haul Boeing 777-200, which will run non-stop on Mumbai-New York and Delhi-New York sector. The new fleet also comprised two freighter aircraft to meet the growing cargo requirements.
While the Mumbai-New York flight will begin in August, the Delhi-New York operations will begin by the end of the year, Thulasidas said.
The two Boeing long range aircraft have been named after Andhra Pradesh and Assam, the states represented in the Rajya Sabha by the Prime Minister.
The Civil Aviation Minister said as the merger between Air India and Indian would become operational in the near future, "the interest of employees of the two carriers in terms of career growth and seniority would be protected."
Patel said the combined fleet of 130 of all the airlines in the country would increase to 325 in the next few years.
However, infrastructure in terms of airports and ground handing facilities remained a big challenge and the country would need at least 500 airports to handle both the increasing passenger and cargo traffic.
"The sunrise sector of aviation can create two million jobs," he said.
Patel said while after opening of the sector the private sector airlines grew fast in terms of service and fleet expansion, Air India and Indian suffered because they were not given a level-playing Field in terms of expansion.
"Last time planes were acquired when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister," he said.