The state government, which is without a chopper now and hires it from two private firms, has come up with a short-term lease policy, which will allow privately owned choppers to be temporarily stationed in the city to meet its requirements.
“The new policy will help us save up on costs as only flying hours will be considered. Tenders were floated in August last week. We have finalised three firms, which are ready to station their aircraft in the city for our needs. Only companies based in the country were allowed to participate in the tender,” said the official.
“The policy will primarily help us avail two things: safety and a dedicated crew, who are the best in the field. Not compromising on the safety of VIPs was our primary motto when we drafted this policy.
We are now awaiting the high-powered committee’s approval for the companies,” said Valsa Nair, principal secretary, civil aviation. Last week, the last state-owned chopper, which had remained unused since 2011, an Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin, was donated to a flying school after Cabinet approval. Another state-owned chopper, a Sirkosky, was grounded after it crashed in Nilanga in May with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis onboard.
As a replacement, two new choppers are likely to be bought by the government, tenders of which are yet to be floated. The new helicopters are expected to cost the state between Rs 150 crore and Rs 175 crore. Till they arrive, the government only has a fixed-wing Cessna Citation, purchased in 2008 for flying VIPs.
The new choppers may take at least a year to arrive. “Now, we hire choppers from Adonis Aviation and Aloft Aviation on a requirement basis. Depending upon seating, it costs Rs 2.5-4 lakh per hour. In a month, the government uses the choppers for 30-40 hours,” said a government official.
Under the new policy under consideration, companies will need to station their choppers at the Juhu airport hangar for a minimum 30 days for use by the government as and when required. At least 30 hours of flying has been promised.
“The company will be bound to allow us to use the choppers for 30 hours over a 30-day period, extendable if we have not utilised the same for the given period. We can choose the services of other companies if we find it necessary. The policy will guarantee the required flying hours and availability of aircraft to us when required,” added the official.
In the absence of such a policy, the government will have to place a request for an aircraft at least a month in advance. Agencies will also add the “non-productive” hours, which include the time taken to ferry the aircraft from different locations to the city, shooting up the costs for the government.
“As the choppers will be maintained and serviced under our surveillance, we will be able to scrutinise the process. We expect them to be stationed at the government hangar in Juhu airport,” said an official.
After approval from the high-powered committee, the policy is likely to be put into operation by mid-October.