Flight of fancy
Apart from Agra, Pawan Hans also wants to connect Delhi to areas like Dehradun, Saharanpur, Jalandhar and Muzaffarnagar. The heliport is planned near the Akshardham temple and will start operations before the 2010 Commonwealth Games. It has also identified another plot on the other side of the Nizamuddin Bridge.
“There are not enough helicopters in Delhi. There are only 167 civilian helicopters in India, most of them being used in oil exploration,” said RK Tyagi, Chairman and Managing Director of Pawan Hans.
“People from nearby towns have a tough time reaching the hospitals in the Capital in ambulances. We are trying to tie-up with major hospitals,” he added. Pawan Hans is also looking at commuters who travel daily between Greater Noida and Gurgaon.
Kapil Kaul of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation said there is a huge market for helicopter services that has not been penetrated yet. “This sector has been neglected by the government and such services were long overdue,” he said.
The price matrix
Tyagi said the cost of operating a helicopter depends on its size. So, the cost of flying a six-seater is around Rs. 50,000 per hour and that of a helicopter that can seat more than nine passengers, would be more than Rs. one lakh per hour.
“If we fly a 26 seater and carry at least 20 passengers to Agra, the cost would be Rs 6,000 for one way,” he said.
According to the Travel Agents’ Association of India, there are around 3,000 tourists going to see the Taj every day from Delhi.
“The cost comes to around Rs 5,000-8,000 per person but money is not the problem because they are either foreigners or corporate clients. For them, time is of essence,” said Raji Rai, vice president of the Travel Agents’ Association of India.
Tyagi said the heliport could start operations in six months of getting all the required clearances. With a runway, a hangar and a departure/arrival terminal, the heliport needs 40 acres of land. The proposal has been forwarded from the Ministry of Civil Aviation to the Delhi Development Authority.
“The heliport proposal is from Pawan Hans, which we support and endorse. We have written to the Vice Chairman of DDA and Chairman of NOIDA Authority as the project requires some quantity of land,” Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla told Hindustan Times.