India’s first integrated heliport, built by Pawan Hans Limited, a Public Sector Undertaking of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, was inaugurated in North West Delhi’s Rohini by Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Tuesday, 28 February, 2017. Full-scale chopper operations are expected to begin by May this year.
“We are excited. This is the first facility in South Asia. Of course, in terms of passengers’ traffic, India is the fastest growing in the world. Somehow in helicopter and cargo, we have lagged behind. So we need to pull up our socks,” said the Civil Aviation Minister.
In the new Civil Aviation Policy structured in June, 2016, the Government has envisaged four integrated heliports in four regions of the country.
While India already has 1,141 heliports, second only to the United States of America with 5,664 in number, the heliport at Rohini is the first one to be integrated. It includes facilities such as rotor wing aircraft including their landing and take-off, an independent air traffic control (ATC), fire and fuelling services area.
The Rohini Heliport
Rohini is a well-developed residential city in North West Delhi and falls within the bracket of the 12 zones administered under the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The Heliport at Rohini, spread over 25 acres of land, is the first of its kind in India, and is located just a few kilometres away from the Rithala metro station.
The Heliport located at Bhagawan Mahavir Marg, Sector 36, Rohini, Delhi, 110039, was built at a cost of Rs 100 crore. The terminal building has a capacity of 150 passengers while the heliport can handle 4 hangars with a parking space of 16 helicopters and 9 parking bays. The Heliport also comes with capabilities such as maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities.
Apart from being a perfect option for disaster management, law and order surveillance, a centre for the skill development of pilots and engineers, and emergency medical services, the heliport will also push Government’s ambitious regional connectivity scheme by helping connect the capital of India to many smaller areas.
The Heliport is set up at Rohini and has been undergoing successful trial runs for a year now. The heliport has overhaul (Maintenance, Repair and Operations) facilities which will also be used for the upkeep of the Pawan Hans fleet. Third party maintenance work is also possible at this heliport.
The Rohini Heliport will help in reducing the congestion at the Delhi Airport which accommodates 40-50 helicopter arrivals and departures on an average every day.
As the perfect inauguration of the heliport, the first flyers were underprivileged children including 5 boys and girls from CRY, an NGO. They were taken on a chopper for a joyride over Delhi.
Joyrides Over Delhi
The joyrides are expected to begin by the end of March or early April this year, allowing the Delhiites as well as visitors and tourists to enjoy the charm of the capital of India from thousands of feet above the ground. However, though manpower and resources are readily available, before the joyrides can begin there are certain issues which need to be dealt with and they include:
- The routes have to be defined taking into consideration the restricted air zones where no aircrafts can enter without permission.
- Technicality relating to finance and revenue also has to be looked into.
Helicopter Joyride Charges
A 10-15-minute helicopter ride will cost about Rs 2,499. As per sources, there is a proposal to bring the cost further down in case the 25% tax paid to the Delhi Government for the Aero Turbine Fuel is reduced and brought down to the minimum.
IRCTC to Book Tickets for Pawan Hans Helicopter Service
Pawan Hans has joined hands with Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to promote helicopter tourism. The interested would-be flyers will be allowed to book tickets online through the IRCTC website. The Memorandum of Understanding has been signed to implement the ‘heli project’.
At present, the joyrides available for the tour of Delhi in a helicopter cost anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000.
A joyride to Agra, or Jaipur for a single day costs approximately Rs 2,00,000.
The Emergence of Helicopters For Connectivity in India
The number of civil helicopters in India is expected to increase to 800 in another 15 years. The Government of India’s ambitious “Make in India” project coupled with strategic initiatives is expected to make this growth happen. Regional connectivity being one of the major focus areas of the Civil Aviation Policy structured in June, 2016; half of these 800 helicopters introduced into the civil stream will be used for the same purpose as per the Indian arm of the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).
The growth is expected in two phases; fleet expansion as well as replacement of old machines. To make this growth viable, the government has joined hands with the chopper industry making India an ideal base for the manufacture of helicopters.
As of now, India belongs to a small elite group of nations producing helicopters. But the Dhruv ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter) is the only Indian design available with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at present.
The other helicopters it produces are being manufactured under license or as modifications to existing foreign types of helicopters. The foreign companies with a helicopter market in India include Bell, Sikorsky, MD, AgustaWestland, and Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters). In fact, Eurocopter has set up a full-fledged Indian subsidiary, the first foreign helicopter manufacturer to do so in India.
Hopefully, with the support of the government and under the Make in India campaign, HAL will come up with a new design in near future which will act as an inexpensive alternate to the imported helicopters.