Tuesday, November 23, 2021

New helicopter policy to propel growth of civil aviation sector

The civilian helicopter sector got a shot in the arm when in October 2021 the Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia announced a new helicopter policy at the Helicopter Summit organised by the industry body FICCI in Dehradun. Under this policy besides many other norms dedicated hubs and corridors would be established and landing charges and parking deposits abolished to boost commercial helicopter operations in the country. 

Under the new policy, the government will put together a dedicated helicopter acceleration cell in the Civil Aviation Ministry that will look at helicopter industry's issues. As part of the policy there will be no landing charges or parking deposits for heliports or helicopter companies. To begin with four Heli Hubs and Training Units will be set up in Mumbai, Guwahati, Delhi, and Bengaluru and helicopter corridors will be set up in 10 cities and 82 routes in the country. 

Experts with whom THE WEEK spoke found that the helicopter policy and development of heli hubs is the need of the hour to give a push to the slow moving civilian helicopter sector in the country. The civil aviation market is growing at a rapid pace in the country and has drawn many aviation giants towards India as many business class people are ending up buying their own personal aircraft and jets. However helicopters despite their advantages have been lagging behind in penetration remarked a former helicopter pilot who did not wish to be identified. 

This former pilot points out that the journey of the civil helicopter sector in India has remained more or less stagnant. “Since the first civil helicopter took to the skies in India in November 1953 the commercial use of helicopters in India was limited to small aviation companies involved in communication and crop spraying until 1986. The formation of the Helicopter Corporation of India in 1986 (later Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd), was the turning point in the civil helicopter industry in India. Though Pawan Hans now holds and operates the largest fleet of helicopters in the country, it could only add a mere 292 units during its 26 years period up to 2012. Post that the firm began facing tough times due to higher cost of operations and regulatory norms,” remarked the former pilot. 

Interestingly if one goes by the numbers India at present has only 266 civil registered helicopters in the country, operating with non scheduled operators, private category, government (central and state) and PSUs. The Non-Scheduled Operators hold the major chunk of helicopters in numbers (200 plus) the balance operate under the category of private and Government and PSUs. Surprisingly this number is very less compared to the global statistics. 

23/11/21 Abhinav Singh/The Week

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