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First flight takes off from Gopalpur

Berhampur, April 12: A new chapter was added to the state’s aviation history today with the launch of a non-scheduled air charter service from Gopalpur to Bhubaneswar. Global Avianautics (GAL), which runs the Government Aviation Training Institute (GATI) for the state government in Bhubaneswar, is operating the service.

“The flight will take off daily from Gopalpur’s Rangeilunda air strip for Bhubaneswar. The six-seater twin engine mini aeroplane Pipper Seneca will carry four passengers and two crew members. The cost of a flight from Gopalpur to Bhubaneswar would be between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000. The distance between the two cities, which is about 186km by road, will be covered in 40 minutes,” said O.P. Suri, CEO of GAL, and wing commander Pradeep Chakravarty.

Ganjam collector V. Kartikeya Pandian inaugurated the service on the auspicious day of Ram Navami. However, there were no passengers in the inaugural flight.

GAL would provide air journey to Visakhapatnam and other nearby cities having big or small airstrips, provided the plane covers the distance within two hours. Clarifying the status of the non-scheduled air charter services, officials of the GAL said that there is no schedule journey of the flight.

“When we have four passengers, we will take off,” said a GAL officer.

Although there is no air ticket booking office or enquiry counter at Rangeilunda at present, GAL is planning to open an office on the premises of the PWD office situated near the air strip, sources said.

The GAL aviation services company is providing various aviation services such as flying training for fixed and rotary wing aircrafts, development and operation of small airstrips, non-scheduled air charter services and aero sports. The officers are quite optimistic about the prospects at Rangeilunda.

GATI at Bhubaneswar is using Rangeilunda as the second flying club in Orissa. “As the Bhubaneswar airport runway suffers from traffic congestion most of the time, the civil aviation ministry was in search of a suitable substitute and considered Rangeilunda air strip as the best,” captain M.S. Mander, flight instructor in-charge of GATI, had said earlier.

Mander, who had surveyed the Rangeilunda air strip along with wing commander Pradeep Chakravarty earlier, had urged the district administration to extend the present runway of the Rangeilunda air strip so that bigger aircraft could land and take off. Gopalpur, which is a major tourist destination, could have air connectivity with Calcutta, Vishakhapatnam, Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar.

Rangeilunda is located at a distance of around 5km from Berhampur and is adjacent to Berhampur University. The Britishers built the Rangeilunda air strip during the Second World War.

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