Chopper service to ferry the rich between new Bangalore airport and city (Lead, superseding earlier story)

June 4th, 2008 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Balaji
Bangalore, June 4 (IANS) Deccan Aviation, India’s leading private charter firm, will launch a helicopter service this month to ferry passengers between the new Bengaluru airport and Bangalore city, about 40 km away. The service will help the “well-heeled” save on time as its takes from 90 to 120 minutes to travel by road to the city. The helicopter will take 15-20 minutes and will operate from three locations in the city.

“The copter service is essentially meant for high-profile passengers, especially corporate honchos, who are hard-pressed for time and want to avoid the choc-a-block traffic from the new airport (at Devanahalli) on the outskirts of the city,” Deccan Aviation managing director Captain G.R. Gopinath told IANS.

The aviation firm has acquired three twin-engine copters — one of Bell and two of Eurocopter make, which can carry seven to eight passengers for every sortie from the new Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) to the city.

The service will be available to three key locations — two in the city and one in Electronics City, about 70 km southwards from the airport.

The other two locations are the old HAL airport in the eastern part of the city, about 50 km away, and to UB City in downtown, about 40 km from the airport, which is located in the north-west.

The charges are estimated to be in the range of Rs 4,500-5,700 ($95-135) per passenger.

“We are waiting for clearances from DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation) to operate the service and for permission from the BIA operator — Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) — to fly between the new airport and the old airport,” Gopinath pointed out.

The aviation firm is also seeking state approval for night landing at the helipads at UB City and Electronics City.

“We have got a good number of enquiries and responses to the short-haul copter service between the new airport and main city centres. As a drive to and from the new airport to any point across the city and beyond will take 90-120 minutes during peak hours (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.), we will be able to fly the well-heeled in 10-15 minutes, saving their time and energy,” Gopinath said.

As India’s IT capital, Bangalore is home to about 1,700 IT and biotech firms, including global software majors (MNCs) and IT bellwethers like Infosys and Wipro. A majority of the firms are located in Electronics City and Whitefield, about 20 km from the old HAL airport.

The new airport operates about 350-400 flights a day. About 70 percent of the traffic is domestic and the rest is international, mostly between midnight and dawn.

An estimated 30,000-35,000 passengers fly in and out of Bangalore daily on domestic and overseas routes.

With over 2.5 million vehicles choking the city thoroughfares, congested linking roads and narrow connecting lanes, a drive to the new airport during peak hours is a nightmare to any air passenger.

According to the traffic police, about 10,000 vehicles, including two-wheelers, cars, buses and trucks ply every hour on the busy thoroughfare to the new airport and towards National Highway seven (NH 7).

Plans for an expressway and a high-speed rail link are still on the drawing board. Many blame lack of political will, red tape and inefficient bureaucracy for the inordinate delays in executing the infrastructure projects.

Though the Rs.25 billion ($625 million) greenfield airport was built from scratch in a record 36 months from June 2005 to April 2008, the state government and the Bangalore metropolitan authorities failed to keep pace with the project to improve the connectivity by widening the roads, building flyovers and providing signal-free dedicated lane to the airport from the city.

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