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Govt mulls helicopter services to hilly areas, islands

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The Centre is planning to start helicopter and smaller aircraft services to hilly areas, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands under the second phase of UDAN scheme, Minister of State Jayant Sinha said. “Under the UDAN round 2, we have given special consideration to hilly areas, north-east, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and provide concessions so that we can operate helicopters as well as smaller planes in these places,” he said. Last month, the government had announced increasing viability gap funding for helicopter operators and allowing smaller planes, among other concessions, under the regional air connectivity scheme.

The second phase of UDAN seeks to connect unserved and under-served airports as well as make flying more affordable with fares capped at INR 2,500 for one-hour flights. Hoping that there will be better participation from the airlines during round 2 of UDAN, the MoS for Civil Aviation said under the first round, the government was able to add around 30 new airports. He said the Centre was also working on adding more international routes from southern cities like Coimbatore and Tiruchirapalli.

“Passengers wanted more international flights from Coimbatore. We are working on that. There is a demand for more international flights from Tiruchirappalli as well,” Sinha said. Referring to the Chennai airport, the minister said the annual passenger traffic is set to increase from present 20 million to 35 million in coming years.

He said the Centre is working on a greenfield airport for Chennai for which around 2,000 acres of land would have to be provided by the Tamil Nadu government.