Helicopters in India: Better for Infrastructure and Tourism
- Helicopters play a vital role in the development of the economy and are an important part of the civil aviation ecosystem.
- Helicopter corridors are to be set up in 10 cities with 82 routes, 6 dedicated, to start.
- Helipads are to be set up along expressways to aid evacuation of accident victims with 3 expressways identified.
Mr. Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of Civil Aviation, today said that the concept of the helicopter is not new in India, but it needs to be proliferated with a structure that will enable the industry to work in tandem with the government to serve people. Helicopter penetration in the country needs to be a priority, he said. He added that a landscape needs to be provided that will allow operators to render their services in the spirit of true nationhood, and thoughts must be followed by action.
Addressing the 3rd FICCI Helicopter Summit of 2021, “[email protected]: Expediting the Growth of Indian Helicopter Industry and Enhancing Air Connectivity,” Mr. Scindia announced the new 10-step Helicopter Policy. Elaborating on the policy, Mr. Scindia noted that a dedicated Helicopter Accelerator Cell has been set up by the Ministry of Civil Aviation that will look at all industry issues in the sector.
Further, the Minister announced that as a part of this policy, all landing charges will be cancelled and parking deposits will be refunded. “We are going to be a resource that you can use to facilitate your growth. The third step of the policy will ensure that the AAI and ATC officials reach out to the industry so that we can ensure that adequate training is given to all individuals about helicopter issues,” he said.
In order to ease doing business, the Minister informed that an advisory group has been constituted on helicopters. “Industry pain points will be addressed at [the] secretary’s or my level. Issues of outdated rules and regulations will be taken care of,” he said.
Mr. Scindia added that 4 Heli Hubs and Training Units will be set up in Mumbai, Guwahati, Delhi, and Bangalore. He also said that Helicopter Corridors will be set up in 10 cities with 82 routes. The Ministry will currently begin operations on 6 dedicated routes to start with. The major routes identified are Juhu-Pune, Pune- Juhu, Mahalaxmi Racecourse – Pune, Pune – Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Gandhinagar – Ahmedabad, and Ahmedabad – Gandhinagar.
Mr. Scindia also mentioned that Helipads will be set up along identified expressways so that evacuation of accident victims can take place immediately. “The Delhi-Bombay Expressway, Ambala-Kotputli Expressway, and Amritsar – Bathinda – Jamnagar Expressway will be part of our HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Services),” the Minister added.
Heli-Disha, the booklet on Administrative Guidance Material on Civil Helicopter Operations, which was released at the event, will be given to every collector in every district of the country, the Minister announced. This will ensure awareness is created at the district administration, he added.
A centralized Heli Seva portal was also inaugurated at the event as a part of the new Helicopter Policy. The road map for Heli Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) was also released at the event.
General (Dr.) V K Singh (Retd.), Minister of State, Ministry of Civil Aviation, and Minister of State, Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, Government of India, said that helicopters have their own utility. Their upkeep and maintenance, however, is expensive and hence have been used less for passenger traffic. “We hope that we will be able to cut down on costs and make it economically viable. This is a sector that needs impetus and needs a greater go in terms of what it can be used for,” he added.
Mr. Pushkar Singh Dhami, Chief Minister, Government of Uttarakhand, said that Uttarakhand depends on tourism for its economy, which needs best connectivity. “We look towards helicopter[s] for connecting people We are trying to make helicopter[s] a vehicle of common people and aim to provide best service when it comes to helicopters,” he said.
Mr. Satpal Singh Mahara, Minister of Tourism, Irrigation, Culture, and Chairman, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board, said that in a bid to boost connectivity, the government is making efforts for seaplanes to land at the Nanak Sagar. “This will help in building connectivity. The state aims at being the service provider. “We also request for an International Airport be built at Haridwar,” he said.
Ms. Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, Helicopter, listed the number of initiatives taken by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. “The Helicopter Accelerator Cell is going to provide a platform for all the industry partners to work in tandem and in collaboration with the government. Speaking about Heli Sewa, Ms. Padhee said that the site is going to be a game changer as they keep on using it and enrich its contents. “This site is based on the request of the operators, and we hope that the clearances for the helicopters would happen expeditiously,” she added.
Mr. Dilip Jawalkar, CEO, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board, said that the role of helicopters is extremely important especially in remote and hilly areas like Uttarakhand. Heli taxis add a dimension of inclusiveness, particularly for senior citizens, children and the differently abled. Helicopters offer the fastest mode of connectivity to the remote and inaccessible regions and play a major role in disaster management and rescue operations in the state.
Mr. Sanjeev Kumar, Chairman, Airports Authority of India, said that helicopters play a vital role in the development of the economy and are an important part of the civil aviation ecosystem.
Dr. R K Tyagi, Chair, FICCI General Aviation Taskforce, and Former Chairman, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), and Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited (PHHL), said India today has a fleet strength of 236 helicopters that are divided among 73 operators. “This is a highly fragmented industry with only 3 operators having more than 10 helicopters. India must have more than 5,000 helicopters with a good number of them dedicated to emergency medical services, and law and order,” he said.
Mr. Remi Maillard, Chair, FICCI Civil Aviation Committee, and President and MD, Airbus India, said that India’s topography and spread of population makes it an ideal helicopter country. “Helicopters are a well-developed segment in many economies of the world, yet the helicopter market is actually dwindling in India. Helicopters are still perceived as the fancy toy of the rich. The government and the industry need[s] to change the perception of helicopters – to deglamorize helicopters into positioning into greater acceptability,” he said.
Mr. Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI, said the civil aviation industry in India has emerged as one of the fastest growing industry in the country. “Helicopters can play a vital role in the development of the economy, and the significance of helicopters doubles due to the operating characteristics of the rota craft as well as the handling properties of under low airspeed conditions,” he added.