Concerned after a chopper carrying Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis crash-landed this week, the Centre has asked the state government to undertake a thorough inspection of its fleet and, if necessary, procure new aircraft. The Centre reckons the state government can set aside Rs 200-250 crore for acquiring new helicopters. Fadnavis was traveling in a Sikorsky helicopter purchased in December 2011 during the Congress-NCP government for Rs 55 crore.
A source in the General Administration Department (GAD) said, “The government has just one aircraft, a Cessna Citation 560 XLS brought in 2008, for operations. A Beechcraft Super King Air 350 and an Eurocopter AS 365N3 Dauphin helicopter have been grounded for some years.”
A senior government official said, “Last month, the Cabinet had decided to take a re-look at the state of its aircraft. The expenditure is being worked out. It is estimated between Rs 20 and Rs 23 crore.”
But officials admitted given the hectic schedule of Fadnavis, the last two-and-a-half years had seen several instances where they had to make last-minute arrangements. On May 13, during his visit to Gadchiroli, the plane carrying Fadnavis developed snag. The non-availability of an alternative aircraft, which had been sent for maintenance, too raised questions.
Private planes used for ferrying VIPs charge Rs 75,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh per hour.