Choppers may soon be flying in remote areas, Jammu and Kashmir and other hilly states to provide cheap regional connectivity under the government’s ambitious UDAN scheme. The aviation ministry has received 141 proposals from 17 operators to operate regional flights, of which 33 proposals are for helicopter flights.
“In all, operators have shown interest for flying on 502 regional routes. Of the airports they want to link, as many as 49 are currently unserved (get no flights); 15 are under-served (get less than 14 flights a week) and 38 have flight operations. Also 24 helipads are on the wish list for round two of regional connectivity scheme (RCS). We will complete the process and then award the routes by the year-end,” said aviation secretary R N Choubey.
This April, the aviation ministry had given 128 routes under RCS-I which were to get operational by September-end. However, only 26 of these routes have seen flights as two operators — Air Deccan and Air Odisha which got 84 routes— are yet to launch a single flight.
Sources say RCS-II will have a better fate as strong players like IndiGo and Jet Airways are expected to participate and SpiceJet is likely to increase its presence in the regional space. Once big names join the fray or spread their wings, the plan will really take off.
“Air Deccan and Air Odisha have told us they will start some flights by December 15. We are monitoring them and if will act against them if they do not do so. Also awarding more routes in RCS-II is linked to actual performance of existing RCS players in the first round when the scheme was launched,” Choubey said.
Among the unserved airports which operators want to launch flights to and from are: Sholapur, Kohlapur, Kota, Aligarh, Jhansi, Bareilly, Allahabad, Bikaner and several in the Northeast. Among the routes operators have shown interest in operating flights are: Kota, Jhansi, Moradabad and Aligarh to Lucknow; Jaisalmer-Hindon (near Delhi) and Cooch bear to Guwahati. The proposed chopper routes include: Mussorie to Dehradun and Pithoragarh to Almora.