Kolkata-Durgapur copter service to take off soon

India, June 24 -- After facing hurdles with flight services, Bengal Aerotropolis Limited has managed to rope in a prospective operator, which would introduce helicopter services between Kolkata and Durgapur soon.

Pawan Hans - which recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the state government - is ready to start services by end June or first week of July. "We are going to have a trial run technically known as Proving Flight, within two to three days, to carry out last minute checks. If everything works fine, we will introduce the Kolkata to Durgapur helicopter operations soon," Sanjay Kumar, general manager (marketing), Pawan Hans, told HT.

Predominantly, Andal Aerotropolis in Durgapur, where flight operations are slated to begin, is facing a roadblock. A high-tension line, cutting across the runway at the aerotropolis has been deemed a threat and a high risk to flight operations. The flight operations at the facility have been dubbed unsafe and delayed until the high-tension wires are shifted and it seems it would take another 12-15 months to finish the job.

Since the terminal buildings and other infrastructure are ready, BAPL officials decided to introduce helicopter operations from the Aerotropolis till the airport is ready for flight operations. However, even after zeroing in on three operators, services could not be introduced because they sought subsidy from BAPL.

"The question of subsidy to Pawan Hans does not arise because it has an MoU with the state government. However, we might give subsidy in some form like offering them a discount on night landing charges and parking fees and providing our guest house in case of emergency forcing crew members to stay back in Durgapur overnight," a BAPL official said.

Although the fare is yet to be decided, sources said a oneway ticket might cost Rs. 3,500 to Rs. 4,000 per head.

BAPL has already allotted a place inside the terminal for officials of Pawan Hans, a parking bay for choppers and a room for security personnel. West Bengal police will look after the security inside the airport and screen passengers.

"Screening passengers is mandatory because the chopper service is to and from NSCBI Airport which is a controlled airport. Metal detectors and the security zone is in order," a BAPL official added.

The Aerotropolis, billed as a first-of-its-kind Greenfield airport, has already missed a few deadlines, including the day of Poila Boisakh this year.

On Friday, when Mamata Banerjee held a public meeting in Burdwan, the chief minister announced that helicopter services from the airport would be introduced soon. She has suggested that the Aerotropolis be named after poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.