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Trial run for Balurghat-Calcutta flight

- Helicopter test run on Thursday, four landing spots inspected

Balurghat, Dec. 10: The South Dinajpur district administration has announced a trial run of helicopter services between Balurghat and Calcutta via Malda on December 12 with a chopper landing here around 12 noon.

The helicopter would take off from Behala Flying Club in Calcutta and arrive here through Malda. On the return journey the chopper would take the same route.

Today, South Dinajpur district magistrate Tapas Chaudhury, senior officers and the superintendent of police inspected four places here.

“We have selected four places in Balurghat where the helicopter may land — Mahinagar, the ground of the district sports association, Balurghat High School grounds and the police grounds at Powerhouse. Helicopter service between Balurghat and Calcutta is about to begin and a chopper will land here on Thursday as part of a trial run. We would examine all factors and decide where the helicopter will land,” said Chaudhury.

Sources in the transport department said a ride between Balurghat and Calcutta would cost around Rs 1,500 for a single person. “We don’t have specific information about the fare. The seven-seat helicopter would fly once a week, most likely on Wednesdays,” said an administrative officer.

A one-way trip would be 90 minutes.

In 2011, after Trinamul came to power, North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb said flight services between Balurghat and Calcutta would start. But the plans did not take off.

Balurghat’s only airport at Mahinagar, 5km from here, was functional till the 90s when 22-seat Vayudoot used to fly between the town and Calcutta. The airport is the second largest in north Bengal after Bagdogra. Built in 1947, it measures 152 acres with a 2,800ft-long runway.

Although the South Dinajpur administration is hopeful about the flights, helicopter services between Calcutta and several destinations, like Santiniketan and Durgapur, has been grounded before take-off on “technical grounds”, at least for a week. The service was to have launched yesterday. Sources in the aviation industry said feasibility could play spoilsport in the coming days with few bookings. n See page 8