Days after the state cabinet decided to repair and reuse its old helicopter, its aviation department has now decided to revive its old aircraft which has been grounded for the last five years. The revival is expected to cost the government Rs17.2 crore.
State government owns two helicopters and two aircrafts, of which only one helicopter, Sikorsky S76 C++ helicopter purchased in 2011 is in service. Superking AB 300 aircraft, purchased in July 1998 for Rs 17.24crore and utilised for 11 years and Dauphin AS 365 N-3 helicopter purchased in 2001 for Rs 23 crore and utilised till 2011 have been grounded for want of repairs for the last five years.
After numerous attempts that failed to gain the desired selling prices for the old helicopter and aircraft, the government has decided to repair and reuse both of them.
“The cabinet has approved to repair the helicopter by spending Rs24 crore. We are now moving a proposal for the reuse of the old aircraft. The repair will need Rs13.2 crore while maintenance will require Rs4 crore annually. Once approved by the finance department, the proposal will come before the cabinet for the final nod,” said an official from Mantralaya.
According to the norms of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the aircraft can be used for 35 years or 25,000 flying hours, against which it has been used for merely 2,500 hours.
“We have been using private aircrafts provided by two agencies at high rate of Rs1.5 lakh an hour for VIPs. With the revival of the old helicopter and aircraft, we hope to save the money spent on the privately hired aircrafts,” the official said.
The team of five pilots and co-pilots have been underutilised for the lack of operational aircraft. The Cessna Citation 560XLS, the high-end aircraft purchased by the government three years ago is also lying unutilised after its pilot left the job in 2014. Though the government has appointed a new pilot, he needs to have training and special experience of 150 hours of flying the aircraft. The government has begun its hunt for his training by a foreign agency.
Only one operational helicopter
Though the state government owns two helicopters and two aircraft, only one helicopter is operational. This has resulted in the government spending huge amount of money for hiring private aircraft.
The state government spends Rs20 crore on the transport of VIPs every year, including the Rs1 crore for the salaries of the pilots.
The VIP aircraft are meant for the Governor, chief minister and ministers who have got permission from the CM.