M A I N   N E W S

Soon, helipads near HP hill stations
Pratibha Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Shimla, November 9
The Himachal Pradesh Government has decided to set up helipads in the vicinity of Shimla, Dharamsala and Manali to revive the heli-taxi service. Parking-related issues have so far proved to be a major stumbling block in the restart of the facility meant to attract high-end tourists to the state.

The Tourism and Civil Aviation Department has convened a meeting of various airline operators on November 18 to look into issues that could facilitate the revival of the service and provide better connectivity within the state.

The department has invited about 10 operators to discuss issues hindering the revival of the facility, which has so far proven to be a non-starter. The government has constituted committees to identify suitable chunks of land to be developed as helipads with hangar facility.

The main hurdle faced by the operators who had earlier come forward to provide the service remained the lack of parking facility at various destinations. Prominent companies that had evinced interest in running the service initially included Pawan Hans, Mesco Airlines, Global Vectra, Shiva Heli Services, Virat Aviation and Acro Tech Aviation Pvt Ltd. Later, some more companies joined in during its re-launched.

A pre-requisite for the heli-taxi service to be successful is the proximity of the helipad to the destination where the tourists are headed, says Subashish Panda, outgoing Director, Tourism and Civil Aviation. He says if exclusive sites are provided for parking and landing these heli-taxis, the operators will be saved from paying parking fee as well.

A site has already been identified on the Sanjauli-Dhalli bypass and similar sites are being identified near Manali and Dharamsala, he says.

A major problem faced by operators when the heli-taxi service was launched was the parking of helicopters as the army authorities in Shimla objected to the use of the Annandale ground. An alternative site at Jubbarhatti was too far away, defeating the very purpose of heli-taxi service. The department has identified 57 helipads in the state for the heli-taxi service.

Reviving heli-taxi service

* The helipads will come up in the vicinity of Shimla, Dharamsala and Manali

* The tourism and civil aviation department has convened a meeting with airline operators on November 18

* They will discuss issues to facilitate the revival of heli-taxi service and provide better connectivity within the state





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