To improve inter-state connectivity in the Northeast, central government is mulling over introducing 26 seater aircrafts in the region.
Civil aviation minister, Vayalar Ravi who was in Shillong for the inauguration of the new terminal building of Airport at Umroi on 25 june said that “We have decided on a special aviation policy for the Northeast which will increase connectivity to all the Northeast states through Guwahati”.
The region prone to helicopter crashes which even took life of Arunachal Pradesh CM is in an urgent need of better air connectivity. The chopper services of Pawan Hans have already been suspended after frequent accidents.
Hills, difficult terrains and bad weather always pose the difficulty in road connectivity in Northeast states. With monsoon onset civil aviation minister’s proposal, if implemented, will boost the communication network in the region.
“I have discussed the matter of introducing air connectivity from one city of the Northeast to the others with DoNER minister B.K. Handique,” the minister said.
As per the plan Guwahati would be developed as the regional hub form where everything will be regulated. More engineers would be posted and equipment and aircraft will be provided. Besides, efforts would be made to upgrade six airports in the Northeast by way of expanding the runways so that bigger aircraft like the Boeing can land. At present, only 50-seater aircraft can land at Umroi, All the airports and runway of northeast are very small and needs upgradation.
Ironically the focus is majorly only on seven sisters with no mentioning of brother Sikkim. Landlocked Sikkim is also a part of Northeast region with equally difficult terrain and geographical conditions. Its airport at Pakyong is set to complete in year 2012. Though, minister did mention that they have no intentions to renounce Sikkim from the whole plan.
Minister also asserted that the Centre would welcome private airplane operators to launch small aircraft to connect the Northeast as the government was suffering from a funds crunch and would find it difficult to procure small aircraft immediately.
He added that the Centre was interested in operating flights to Dhaka and other neighbouring countries from Guwahati but discussions would have to be initiated with these countries as operating international flights was a bilateral issue.
Mr. Ravi also welcomes private operators to provide choppers for better air connectivity in the Northeast to provide services in the region. “Let the private players come in, we will examine their proposals,” he said.
On the issue of Pawan Hans, Vayalar Ravi said that in near future the government may assess the situation and depending on that may allow Pawan Hans chopper to fly. “While some Pawan Hans helicopters need repair, many are old. There is also a suggestion to purchase new ones” said the minister.
He added “Our plan is to first ground all the Pawan Hans choppers as there is already fear in the minds of people in the aftermath of frequent air mishaps.”
But minister stressed that as part of safety measures route-mapping would be carried out before choppers were operated in the Northeast.