The much awaited and much talked about helicopter service between Kolkata and Durgapur begins today (December 30). The first helicopter carrying passengers landed at the Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport in Andal near Durgapur at around 11.55 am. Intense fog delayed the landing by nearly 30 minutes.
The Bengal government, in arrangement with Pawan Hans Limited has taken up the project of initiating helicopter services between Kolkata and five destinations, which includes Durgapur, Gangasagar, Santiniketan, Malda and Balurghat. Bengal government had signed a MOU with the helicopter major on last 18 March for chopper services to far flung areas in remote districts.
The helicopter service between Kolkata and Durgapur was scheduled to start from last Tuesday and the required police arrangements were made at the helipad for the purpose, but Pawan Hans Limited, the key player, had suddenly called off the trip.
Today the seven-seat helicopter flew to the airport at Andal near Durgapur from Behala Flying Club in Kolkata at around 10.30 am and took nearly an hour to reach Durgapur. A double-engine Dauphin chopper (VT-ELD) manufactured by Eurocopter of France landed on the western part of the runway. State Transport Minister Madan Mitra who was scheduled to be on board the first fleet was however absent.
The Bengal government’s transport department has contracted Bengal Aerotropolis Pvt Ltd (BAPL), the promoters of aertoropolis in Durgapur, to market tickets. BAPL has hired Balaji Travco India Ltd as its authorised agent to handle ticket bookings. Visit: http://helitour.btiholidays.com/ for online purchase.
Initially the one-way fare for the flight has been kept at INR 2,500. BAPL has agreed to underwrite seven seats at Rs 4,200 per seat on the Calcutta-Durgapur route. However this is an initial offer and sometimes from next month, the fare will be INR 4,200, which according to many is too steep to attract passengers.
At a time when there is a big question mark over the completion of the airport at Andal, the beginning of this helicopter service is sure to attract fresh controversy. The airport meant for regular flight services has failed on four consecutive dates to ensure flight operations as it is yet to overcome different bottlenecks arising out of issues of land procurement, finance and the essential DGCA approval for the purpose. Six high tension lines across the runway of the airport at Andal have put the necessary approval from DGCA on hold.
MD of BAPL – the promoter of Rs 10,000 crore airport city in Andal has however termed the whole event as highly encouraging and said, “We are happy that our airport has been chosen as one of the important destinations in the overall ‘district connectivity agenda’ of the state government. We are also actively focusing on comprehensive commercial air connectivity between this region and the rest of the country with full-fledged airline operations and we have provided additional discount on fare for the Kolkata-Durgapur route.”
The airport city, under commissioning since mid-2008, meanwhile has failed on four consecutive dates to start flight operations as it still don’t have the essential DGCA approval for the purpose.
One may recall that on 19 September, Chief Minister Miss Mamata Banerjee, had visited the airport built with the expertise of Changi International and named the airport after rebel poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam.