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Monday , March 12 , 2012
 
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Assam chopper service takes wings

Guwahati, March 11: Beginning this week, you can hitch a ride on a chopper from Guwahati to 10 important destinations in Assam. Pocket pinch: Rs 4,000 per person, per ride.

Assam’s first commercial passenger chopper service will take off from Guwahati on Thursday and connect the capital with the Bodo Territorial Council area, Dhemaji, Karbi Anglong, Halflong, Lilabari, Tezpur, Dhubri, Kaziranga, Manas and Majuli daily, saving scores of people the trouble of having to undertake tortuous journeys across the state.

Two seven-seater helicopters, B3 Eurocopter and Bell 407, taken on lease by Rudra GTL, that started a dedicated air cargo service in the Northeast last December, will also fly to north Bengal, Meghalaya and Manipur.

“We have planned to start the helicopter services in Northeast from Guwahati keeping in mind the huge potential in the region which is largely constrained because of the geographical conditions,” Manosijj Roy, director Rudra GTL, told The Telegraph.

Rudra GTL is a joint venture initiative by Rudra Group of Companies and GTL Group of Companies.

Roy said the matter has been discussed with transport minister Chandan Brahma who has encouraged “us to go ahead” with the 30-minute rides.

“Safety measures have been given top priority,” he added.

“Various far-flung districts of the region will be connected to Guwahati through this service. Although the areas have poor road connectivity, they are not very distant from one another. As a result, we are in a position to make multiple sorties between the different stations, thereby reducing the cost per flight, making it a very viable option,” Roy said.

The district administrations have allotted certain areas where choppers copters can land, Roy said. In some areas, helipads will be built over time.

The chopper destinations in Meghalaya, Manipur and north Bengal are Barapani, Imphal and Bagdogra.

Roy said one of the copters, Bell 407, would also be used as a heli-ambulance service to aid the health sector in the Northeast.

“We will be able to provide this service at a much lower rate, increasing its reach to all strata of society. With the inflow of lot of corporate entities in the healthcare sector, we have already tied up with most of the firms to help them avail of our services,” he said.

Tourism is an important sector the service is targeting, with choppers connecting Kaziranga and Manas National Park.

“We have spoken to Asaam Tourism Development Corporation Ltd authorities who have encouraged us to go ahead with it,” he said.

“We have trained people who have been allocated to the various areas to set up and run the operations in co-ordination with the local district administration,” he said.

The Airport Authority of India is also drawing up a plan to expand various airports in the state. The plan includes a parallel runway and taxi track at Guwahati’s Lokpariya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport.

V.P. Agarwal, the AAI chairman, met Tarun Gogoi last month, to discuss the proposed expansion plan for Rowriah airport in Jorhat, Mohanbari airport in Dibrugarh with night-landing facility and revival of Rupshi airport in Dhubri.