Helicopters are the New Buzz Word

RCS, tourism industry and single engines, helicopters to get a major fillip soon

March 8, 2018 By Arpita Kala

While many aviation industry experts lament the untapped potential of helicopters in the country, the situation seems to be on a mend. At a recent event on the sidelines of Wings India 2018 in Hyderabad, the government and private officials from the industry came together to discuss the future of the choppers in a moderated panel discussion.

OF RCS AND ROTORS

Helicopters were added to the illustrious list of participants during the second round of bidding in aviation ministry’s ambitious Regional Connectivity Scheme, UDAN. Speaking about the same, G.K. Chaukiyal, Executive Director, AAI said that the choppers have been immensely useful in connecting remote hilly areas. He said, “Since UDAN II biddings, helicopters have covered almost 75 per cent of the Himalayas. They have a huge potential.” He also added that in spite of the success, the government will have to take a decision on the inter or intra-city role of the helicopters.

“UDAN may give a little boost but the industry needs to be opened up more because right now the helicopter industry is moderated and regulated just like commercial airlines,” Rohit Kapur, President, BAOA

Harshvardhan Sharma of Himalayan Heli services echoed the same sentiments saying, “Once regional connectivity is in place, we can look at remote areas then.” Sharma also suggested the possibility of venturing into drones.

SINGLE ENGINE PHOBIA

Regulatory bodies have often been accused of harbouring an aversion to single engine operations and the general aviation operators at the event voiced these concerns. In an earlier interview with SP’s, Kanika Tekriwal, Cofounder of JetSetGo, had put in plainly, “India is a phobic nation when it comes to single engine helicopters.” Joint Secretary, MoCA, Usha Padhee responded to the same by inviting feedback regarding the safety of the model. She said, “Single engine operations are a sensitive issue. We have not been able to commence operations because it’s been coming to our notice that it isn’t allowed nowhere in the world. If you know of any successful model regarding the same, please do bring it top our notice.”

THE BIG IF

Coming from a helicopter background (he served as a helicopter pilot in the Indian Army), BAOA President Rohit Kapur spoke about the slow growth in the field. He said, “UDAN may give a little boost but the industry needs to be opened up more because right now the helicopter industry is moderated and regulated just like commercial airlines.” And that seems like a valid concern since a study by the association hinted at a similar situation. According to a BAOA report in 2011, the Indian helicopter fleet was predicted to almost triple to 800 in a few years from the then 300. However, the number still remains a dismal 270 since then. Looking at their stellar performance in the RCS operations and the upcoming construction of 31 helipads as well as 275 parking bays under UDAN, that may soon change.