The Telegraph
Thursday , January 30 , 2014
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Sajal buys time for take-off
- Talks start before shopping for VIP aircraft

Ranchi, Jan. 29: Households buy cars, states buy copters, but both take time.

The state civil aviation department has cautiously resumed its shopping expedition for a VIP aircraft, a move that had been grounded when the BJP-led Arjun Munda government crashed in January 2013.

Civil aviation secretary Sajal Chakraborty yesterday met a three-member delegation of an agency that pressed its suit on behalf of Beechcraft Corporation, a well-known US company based in Kansas that has a global presence in fashioning general and military aircraft.

The delegation of Arrow Aircraft Sales and Charters Private Limited, the only authorised agency for sales and distribution of Beechcraft in India, had held a meeting with Chakraborty for an hour. Led by Sanjeev Choudhary, Arrow senior VP (business development), the team spoke at length about how Beechcraft could match the state’s needs.

After former chief minister Arjun Munda’s copter, an Agusta 109 of Aryan Aviation, crash-landed in May 2012, the state, which hired helicopters to ferry VIPs, finally decided to buy one of its own.

The cabinet had approved Rs 50 crore for an aircraft.

Global tenders were floated later in 2012 for the purchase of a twin-engine, six-seater aircraft, excluding pilot and co-pilot. Then, a high-level search committee comprising home and civil aviation bureaucrats, among others, was formed to work out modalities.

But as January 2013 arrived, Munda crash-landed politically. The search committee also suffered a big jolt of irrelevance as a consequence.

Currently, Jharkhand is arguably the only state in India that doesn’t have its own VIP aircraft, and makes do with a wet-leased Dauphin helicopter from Pawan Hans.

For a state, it is awkward.

When contacted, civil aviation secretary Chakraborty confirmed his meeting with the foreign delegation.

“We are mulling the new model of aircraft, Beechcraft King Air 250, for the state,” he said. “It will suit both the jobs of a VIP carrier and an air ambulance. The basic aim of buying an aircraft is to crunch time during emergencies. So, there is a need of having our own aircraft so that one which is on wet lease can be put on stand-by,” he added.

Over 23 private air ambulance land and take off from Ranchi in a month.

“If we have our own aircraft, we can also generate revenues by airlifting people,” said a senior aviation official.

But the civil aviation secretary decided this was no time for flights of fancy.

“Talks are in the initial stages, please keep in mind,” he said.

Formal tender or advertisements haven’t been floated till date. It means this shopping trip hasn’t yet taken off.