Tuesday, May 09, 2017

9 heli-charter firms allowed to operate at Kedarnath

The Director-General of Civil Aviation has given clearance to nine private helicopter operators to carry out flights for pilgrims to the Himalayan shrine of Kedarnath.
Officials from the Director-General of Civil aviation today inspected the nine helipads and also the air worthiness of the choppers for giving clearance. “Out of the 14 companies that had applied the officials had given clearance to five companies yesterday and four companies were given clearance today,” said R Rajesh Kumar, Additional Secretary, Civil Aviation.
Between Guptkashi and Sirsi in Rudraprayag district, around nine chopper companies have been given clearance. “Due to  inclement weather, the officials could not conduct the inspection of the remaining helipads and could not check the choppers’ abilities to undertake flights. The inspection would again take place tomorrow,” said R Rajesh Kumar.
Significantly, the Uttarakhand Civil Aviation Development Authority had assured the DGCA during a meeting on May 4 that it would ensure that helicopters did not fly below 600 metres so that the noise of the choppers did not disturb animals in the Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary. These steps were taken to comply with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directives asking the government to frame norms for putting curb on the noise created by the choppers.
The companies that have been given approval included Trans Bharat Aviation, Pawan Hans, Himalayan Heritage Aviation and Global Vectra.
Further, the new BJP government had invited tenders for the heli shuttle service to Kedarnath, the second time after BJP chief Ajay Bhatt had said the tenders were allegedly awarded to companies handpicked by the previous Congress government. “In the past few years, particular companies were being awarded tenders. We wanted a transparent mechanism under which new companies too could apply,” said Ajay Bhatt.
08/05/17 Neena Sharma/The Tribune