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Aerial tourism takes off in Uttar Pradesh

Craving for a bird’s eye view of the Taj Mahal? Or, the ghats of Varanasi for that matter? If you want, you could soon be floating over cities to take in the landscape and the grandeur of monuments.
By Pankaj Jaiswal | Hindustan Times, Lucknow
UPDATED ON JAN 06, 2010 12:34 PM IST

Craving for a bird’s eye view of the Taj Mahal? Or, the ghats of Varanasi for that matter?

If you want, you could soon be floating over cities to take in the landscape and the grandeur of monuments.

Yes, aerial tourism is all set to take off in the state. Uttar Pradesh State Tourism Corporation would be offering hot air balloon rides in Agra, Meerut, Aligarh, Moradabad and Bareily.

Five minutes of flying time would cost Rs 350 per head.

“The date of launch would be announced soon,” said Deena Nath, Corporation’s manager, marketing on Tuesday. The Corporation has tied up with a private company that has already procured a hot air balloon. It has also hired pilots to fly the imported contraption.

“Initially, the flying would be vertical, up to a height of 200-300 meters. But eventually the balloon would travel a distance from 500 meters to a kilometer over a city,” he said.

The ballooning would be like a traveling circus--it would come to a city, stay there for few days and then move on to another city. But Agra and Varanasi would be frequented more.

The balloon flights would require clearance from aviation authorities, which the tourism department would arrange.

Anshul Bansal, the owner of Excellent Entertainment, Kanpur said: “We have acquired a balloon and would have more soon. The entire kit is imported and is assembled in India. Only licensed pilots are allowed to fly balloons, and we have appointed two. We have an experienced aircraft pilot, Akram Beg who has a similar company in Mumbai as our consultant.”

Akram Beg’s company that had organized hot air balloon flights during a cultural event – Lucknow Mahotsav. It was also in his balloon that a Lucknow couple married in a mid-air wedding.

The Corporation is aiming much higher. It has plans to start adventure sport of parasailing too.

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