M A I N   N E W S

Fly Kangra to Delhi every day
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Kangra, March 28
Air Deccan has started operating daily flights from New Delhi to the scenic valley of Kangra situated on the foothills of the Dhauladhar range of mountains in Himachal Pradesh from today.

Earlier, Jagson Airlines has been operating only three flights a week to Kangra valley from Delhi via Pathankot.

The inaugural flight of Air Deccan carrying the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Buddhists, senior authorities of the Airports Authority of India, officials of Air Deccan and media persons from Delhi landed here this morning.

The towns of Dharamsala and McLeodganj are within 15 km radius from the airport and were one of the most sought after destinations by high-end tourists, especially foreigners.

The flight was inaugurated by union minister for civil aviation Praful Patel.

The Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, tourism minister G.S Bali, revenue minister Sat Mahajan, local MP Professor Chander Kumar, local MLA Major Vijay Mankotia and many other senior politicians of the state were present on the occasion.

The Kangra airport had recently been upgraded and its runway was increased from 3,900 feet to 4,500 feet to enable 50-seater planes to land here. Air Deccan has deployed a 48-seater ATR-42 aircraft to serve this route.

After inaugurating the first flight and the new terminal building of the airport, Patel told media persons that the union government was seriously considering to connect important cities of the northern region by air. He said the runway of Kulu airport would also be increased for 50-seater planes to land there.

Replying to a question, he said all airports which were under the control of the Airports Authority of India would get night-landing facility by the end of this year. The Kangra airport would get this facility within three months, he said.

He stressed upon the need to exploit the air travel facilities in the hill state in order to boost tourism in the hill state. Helicopter travel network could also be developed with the private investment for equitable development of tourism in the far-flung neglected tribal areas also, he added.

Virbhadra Singh said the state government had provided a sum of Rs 53 crore for the construction and upgradation of Kangra and Shimla airports.

The technical survey of Sundernagar airport had also been completed and the state government would be approaching the union government to initiate construction work.

Tourism and transport minister G.S Bali said the coming of a 48-seater plane on a regular basis to Kangra valley would help to exploit the tourism potential of the area.

While claiming that tourism is the backbone of the state's economy, he further said the air connectivity would also help in attracting investments in the industrial sector. The already approved special economic zone in Kangra district would be benefited a lot by the air travel facility, he added.

Local MLA Major Vijay Mankotia said the expansion of Kangra airport was a dream project of the state government that would help a long way in exploiting the local tourism potential, generating employment for the local youth. He demanded to interlink Kulu, Kangra and Shimla by regular flights, besides, linking the Buddhist circuit from the pilgrim tourism point of view.

Regional airlines policy soon

A new aviation policy catering to 'regional airlines' was on the anvil, which would usher in an era of rapid growth, not only in air traffic but also in regional development.

Announcing this today, civil aviation minister Praful Patel said the policy, which would be out in a month or two, would be exclusively for airlines operating in regional areas.

''The licences for these airlines would be valid only in the their region of operation and they would be debarred from operating outside their 'circles'.'' The policy would redefine the concept of 'regional airlines' and as an incentive would come with certain benefits for them, he said. UNI



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