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Arunachal gets its first airline flight, CM Khandu among 25 passengers

Arunachal Pradesh hosted its first commercial flight on Monday. The 42-seater ATR aircraft of the Alliance Airlines touched down at Pasighat airport around 2.15 pm after 1.5-hour journey from Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport in Guwahati.

india Updated: May 22, 2018 12:45 IST
Sadiq Naqvi, Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Arunachal Pradesh,Pasighat airport,Pema Khandu
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu at Pasighat airport on Monday.(Twitter/@PemaKhanduBJP)

When an ATR 42 aircraft belonging to Alliance Air touched down in Pasighat on Monday, it spelt the end of a long wait for the connectivity-starved people of eastern Arunachal Pradesh.

Chief minister Pema Khandu and several officials from the state and central governments were aboard the aircraft when it left Guwahati for Pasighat in East Siang district earlier that day. “Got my @airindiain Alliance Air boarding pass for my flight journey from Guwahati to Pasighat. Will be onboard in a few hours. I am totally excited to be part of history – to travel in the first commercial fixed wing flight service to Arunachal. Pasighat, I am coming! @PMOIndia,” a visibly excited Khandu tweeted as he gave away boarding passes to other passengers on the flight.

The Alliance Air flight will run on three days of the week, connecting Pasighat with Kolkata via Guwahati. “Besides Alliance Air, which is a subsidiary of Air India, Zoom Air and Turbo Jet are also set to commence services in the state as soon as the formalities are completed,” a statement from Khandu’s office said.

After landing in Pasighat an hour and ten minutes later, Khandu thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the civil aviation ministry for opening Arunachal Pradesh’s doors to economic progress and tourism by ensuring better connectivity.

“Today is a historic day. I congratulate the people of Arunachal in general and those from Pasighat in particular for this new milestone that will remain engraved in history as a huge step in the development of our state,” said Khandu. “This dream has been fulfilled only due to Modiji and his concerns regarding connectivity in the Northeast.”

“The air service will benefit as many as eight districts of eastern Arunachal Pradesh,” said Jambey Tsering, public relations officer at Khandu’s office. He recalled how small aircraft called ‘Vayudoot’ used to connect Pasighat, Ziro, Along and Tezu with Assam in the 1980s and 1990s, but were discontinued in the years that followed.

Now, the situation is set to change. “With this, one can reach any part of the country in a day,” said Kaling Moyong, who represents East Pasighat constituency in the legislative assembly. “It will also help people who come down with medical emergencies in this part of the state.”

Pasighat is among the eight advanced landing grounds in the state, besides Walong, Ziro, Mechuka, Tuting, Tawang, Along and Vijaynagar.

Eight locations in Arunachal Pradesh were selected by bidders in the second round of bidding under the UDAN-2 regional connectivity scheme. While Pasighat and Tezu were selected for fixed wing services, Ziro, Daporijo, Itanagar, Tuting, Wallong and Yingkiong were adopted for helicopter services. “Tezu is next in line,” Khandu said.

The state government is also in the process of hiring 10-seater fixed wing aircraft under the Chief Minister’s Air Connectivity Scheme to ensure easier access to other locations, including Mechuka.

The ATR 42 is a twin-turboprop, short-haul regional airliner developed and built in France and Italy by aircraft manufacturer ATR.

First Published: May 21, 2018 21:59 IST