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Air service for patients

Guwahati, Aug. 27: A Guwahati-based aviation firm has tied up with Deccan Charters Pvt. Ltd to introduce air ambulance services for prompt evacuation of patients from the interiors of the Northeast to hospitals in cities outside the region.

Deccan Charters has already started operating a nine-seater Pilatus PC 12 aircraft on behalf of Luan Airways with a trial run from Imphal to New Delhi. The aircraft will be based in Guwahati.

“We will operate one aircraft on behalf of Luan Airways to provide medical evacuation services in the Northeast. The pilots and the technical staff will be Deccan’s while Luan will coordinate with the medical team and its travel partner Pushpak,” Capt. G.P. Gopinath, chairman and managing director, Deccan Charters, said during the launch of the ambulance service here today.

The Pilatus PC 12, one of the most suited aircraft for medical evacuation worldwide, is equipped with advanced medical facilities and can land and take off from air strips less than 3,000 feet.

“This is the first dedicated ambulance service in the Northeast backed by a 24x7 call centre and a medical team. More importantly, based in Guwahati, the service can be accessed by a patient in an hour as against a day from New Delhi,” Nakul Chhawchharia, the director of Luan Airways, said.

As of now, a patient has to shell out a sum of Rs 80,000 for an hour’s flight in the air ambulance.

“A return flight on the ambulance from Guwahati to Delhi would cost one about Rs 7 lakh,” Gopinath said.

The Deccan Charters chairman, however, said insurance companies have a role to play in making medical evacuation affordable for the lower income groups.

“Insurance companies need to come up with a low-cost product that covers a patient for medical evacuation,” the founder of the low-frills airline Air Deccan said.

Gopinath also said the governments in the Northeast should equip airports with night landing facility.

“Barring Guwahati and a couple of others, the rest do not have night landing facility,” he said.

The tie-up comes at a time when clouds loom on the viability of private firms operating air services in the Northeast. City-based Purbayan Group and Northeast Shuttles, a private airline, had made brave starts in the recent past only to falter midway.

As of now though, Deccan, which has the experience and expertise, is optimistic. “We would need 50 hours of flying every month to break even in six months,” Gopinath said.

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