Hornbill set to spread wings

Airline to operate from Jan.

By Rining Lyngdoh in Shilong
  • Published 1.10.16
  •  
An artist’s impression of the aircraft

Shillong, Sept. 30: Air travellers will fly on a Hornbill in the Northeast from next year. No, not the majestic birds that are a major attraction of the region but a fleet of small aircraft called Fly Hornbill.

The fleet will be operated by a little known airline, AAA Aviation Private Limited. The firm has signed an agreement with the North Eastern Council (NEC) to start air services in place of Air India's subsidiary, Alliance Air.

AAA was the lowest bidder at Rs 14.5 crore among competitors, which included Jet Airways, in response to an expression of interest (EOI) invited by the NEC in June this year.

The EOI required airlines to provide connectivity to airports at Umroi (Ri Bhoi district, Meghalaya), Lilabari (Lakhimpur district, Assam), Tezpur (Sonitpur district, Assam), Imphal (Manipur) and Silchar (Cachar district, Assam) fromo Guwahati/Calcutta by using a minimum 35-seater, fixed wing aircraft for a minimum period of one year. The aim was to improve intra-region connectivity.

The NEC will pay a viability gap funding (VGF) at Rs 14.5 crore annually to the airline for its services.

"With the operation of the new airline, we will be able to save at least Rs 30 crore a year as we have been paying a viability gap funding of Rs 47.07 crore to Alliance Air," NEC secretary Ram Muivah told The Telegraph here today.

The airline will start operating its fleet of Embraer 145, an all-weather 50-seater twin-jet aircraft from January next year, with its operational base in Guwahati.

"We want the airline to operate between Guwahati and Dimapur (in Nagaland) also and we will sign a separate agreement for this route," Muivah said.

At present, Alliance Air flies from Calcutta to Umroi, Lilabari, Silchar and Tezpur airports and back. This service has been extended till December after which the new airline will start its service.

In January 2013, because of outstanding VGF, the airline had restructured its operations in the Northeast and discontinued its services on some routes. However, it continued to operate on the Calcutta-Silchar, Calcutta-Guwahati and Silchar-Imphal routes.

On September 24, 2014, it inked a fresh memorandum of understanding with the NEC for operating flights from various airports in the Northeast like Umroi, Tezpur, Lilabari, Silchar and Guwahati with ATR 42 type aircraft.