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Helipad cloud on chopper to Digha

Tamluk/Bolpur, Jan. 31: The Calcutta-Digha helicopter service might not take off as scheduled during the government festival at the beach resort in mid-February because Pawan Hans officials have objected to the location of the helipad.

The executive officer of the Digha-Shankarpur Development Authority (DSDA), Soumen Pal, said the helipad near the central bus stand at New Digha was prepared after Pawan Hans officials inspected the spot.

“But during the trial run of the helicopter on Tuesday, Pawan Hans officials said a casuarina (jhau) forest near the helipad was obstructing visibility during landing,” Pal said.

“We had hoped that the helicopter service would start before the beach festival, which is scheduled to be held from February 14 to 16. We have chosen an alternative site for the helipad and sent the proposal to the transport department. But as things stand now, the service can’t be started within such a short time.”

The DSDA executive officer said a two-acre plot belonging to the authority had been identified as the alternative site for the helipad. “If the Pawan Hans authorities agree to the spot, we can construct a helipad there,” Pal said.

A Pawan Hans official said the pilot who had conducted the trial run had “told us that the helipad was not fit for landing”.

“We have told the state government to look for an alternative site,” the official added.

Sanjay Kumar, the general manager (marketing) of Pawan Hans, said: “If there is any problem with the helipad, the government will look into the matter.”

Transport secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay said: “We are looking for a new site for a helipad. We will start the service as soon as possible.”

Pawan Hans has signed an agreement with the state government to run helicopter services from Calcutta to Digha, Sagar island, Asansol, Santiniketan, Malda, Balurghat and Cooch Behar.

On January 18, the helicopter for the Santiniketan-Calcutta service had got stuck in a Birbhum helipad that was hurriedly built hours before the inaugural flight.

A district official said the fare for the Calcutta-Digha chopper service was expected to be between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000 per person. The fare is yet to be finalised.

Hotel owners in Digha said the helicopter service would attract more tourists to the beach resort.

“We think it is important to start the service as soon as possible because more tourists will come here then. We had hoped that the service would start before the beach festival. But we are hearing now that a new helipad will have to be built. We demand that the new helipad be constructed quickly so that the chopper service can be started soon,” said Bipradas Chakraborty, the joint secretary of the Digha-Shankarpur Hoteliers’ Association.