Would you like to start a seaplane service from Gateway of India to Ganpatiphule? Or 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 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 benefit.”
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 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,” 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.”
Added Lalit Seth, MD of Raj Travels, “There’s tremendous potential. Seaplanes are amphibious — they can land on water as well as on land. You can take off from Nariman Point and land in Pune in 25 minutes.” He reckons that he can offer such a service to Pune for Rs 1,000-odd on a 12-seater plane.