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Maharashtra to buy 2 choppers: 1 for VVIPs, another for Maoist-hit areas

The government is expected to spend anywhere between Rs150 crore to Rs175 crore on buying the choppers

mumbai Updated: Sep 08, 2017 00:04 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times
The wreckage of the Sikorsky VT-CMM helicopter, carrying chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and his team, that crashed-landed at Nilanga in May. (PTI)

The state cabinet on Thursday decided to buy two helicopters to replace the one that crashed-landed at Nilanga in May, and use the other one for conducting operations in Maoist-affected Gadchiroli and Chandrapur districts. The two helicopters are expected to cost the state anywhere between Rs150 crore to Rs175 crore. The delivery will take place within 18 months.

“The state is spending Rs15 crore per year to hire a chopper for security operations and as air ambulance in Maoist-affected areas. Besides, ferrying VVIPs, the chopper that will replace Dauphin will also be used for the operations in these areas. The new chopper we are planning to buy — with the specifications equivalent to the Dauphin — will cost anywhere from Rs50 crore to Rs65 crore. While the one replacing Sikorsky will be used exclusively for flying VVIPs and will cost about Rs100 crore. A high power committee comprising officials from the defence forces are finalising the specifications,” said an official from the general administration department.

Currently, the state is dependent on Cessna Citation aircraft that was purchased in 2008 for flying VVIPs after two of its choppers, Eurocopter Daufin and Sikorsky S76, and a fixed wing aircraft, Super King Air 350, were grounded for various reasons.

The Dauphin has not been utilised since 2011 after the Director General of Civil Aviation changed the guidelines for flying VVIP. the Sikorsky was grounded after it crashed in Nilanga in May. While the Super King Air 350 has not been used 2009 after it completed the specified flying hours.

The government has suspended helicopter operations for VVIPs, including the governor and chief minister, after a helicopter hired from an empaneled agency met with an incident at Alibaug in July.

After numerous failed attempts to upgrade or dispose of the chopper and aircraft grounded for years, the state has now decided to donate the Dauphin to the aviation training institute. The decision was taken after the state realised that its revival would cost more than Rs35 crore, while disposing it in scrap will fetch only a couple of crores.

First Published: Sep 08, 2017 00:03 IST