| Ratan Tata: Flying high
New Delhi, July 18: Next time Ratan Tata wants to land in Bengal, he can take off from his group’s private helipad atop a luxury apartment hotel in Colaba, fly over the traffic chaos of Mumbai and board one of his jets at the airport.
The Tata helipad, which got the official nod today, will be the second such private facility in a major city in the country and the only functional one outside the public space. The helipad is located on the roof of the 12-storey Taj Wellington Mews.
Now the business jet-set, including Tata, Mukesh and Anil Ambani, the Ruias of Essar, Rahul Bajaj and Vijay Mallya, use a public helipad built by Royal Western India Turf Club near the Mahalaxmi racecourse when they wish to fly into the heart of Mumbai.
But the racecourse allows take-offs and landings only after 9.30am and none at night. Tata could use his private helipad 24x7, weather permitting.
The apartment hotel, designed by architect John Portman, is circular and considered ideal for a helipad.
Helipads can range in size from 40 feet by 40 feet to 100 feet by 100 feet. The reinforced concrete helipads are expected to be strong enough to support the weight of a 12,000-pound helicopter.
Officials of the directorate general of civil aviation, who inspected test landings at the helipad earlier this week, said it met their specifications.
As the pad was on top of a tower, there was “clear landing space without any obstructions like wires or other jutting-out portions from other buildings”, an official said.
A few more applications were considered but they were rejected because of obstacles in the proposed flight path.
Although choppers can usually land anywhere flat, a fabricated helipad provides a clearly marked hard surface away from obstacles.
The only other private helipad allowed by the DGCA in a metro is atop the Essar building in Mahalaxmi. But sources said that was defunct now.
The Centre wants to encourage the opening of more private helipads and heliports with hangars and repair and maintenance facilities. “Such helipads will encourage users, particularly in hospitals, to operate services for emergencies or disaster management,” said Kanu Gohain, the director general for civil aviation, after signing the papers on the Tata helipad.
Helicopters have not been as popular as fixed-wing aircraft in India mainly because of lack of separate routes and parking and maintenance facilities at airports. However, the government is planning a new regime for helicopters.
India now has around 191 choppers, but the number is expected to rise to 4,000 in five years if the policy is revised.