Pawan Hans to conduct thorough check of its fleet

May 3rd, 2011 - 5:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala, May 3 (IANS) State-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL), which suspended its services in six northeastern states, is likely to resume services next week after a careful check of its fleet, a top official said here Tuesday.

The PHHL decision to suspend operations for a week came after a helicopter with Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others on board went missing Saturday.

“PHHL authorities in New Delhi have informed all the state governments that its helicopter services would be suspended for about a week to conduct a thorough check of all its copters,” Tripura Transport Secretary Kishore Ambuly told IANS.

Quoting a PHHL letter, he said: “Services in the northeastern region are expected to start again middle of next week if the company is satisfied with the condition of its fleet. We are keeping close touch with PHHL officials in New Delhi.”

He disclosed that the Tripura government had earlier floated a tender to operate chopper services on its own. PHHL and a few other private companies, he said, had also participated in the offer. The union home ministry’s view on the issue is awaited.

India’s lone national helicopter company PHHL has been operating services for the past nine years in the interior areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland and Manipur with the union home ministry subsidising fares by up to 75 percent.

The PHHL was set up in 1985; currently, the central government holds 51 percent stakes in the company while the Oil and Natural Gas Corp has 49 percent. PHHL was established with the primary objective of providing helicopter support services to the oil sector for offshore exploration operations, services in remote and hilly areas and charter services for promotion of tourism.

The Meghalaya government suspended Pawan Hans services from Sunday.

“Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has take up the issue with his counterparts in other northeastern states to pressurise the PHHL and the central government to replace the age-old choppers operating in the region,” another official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

He said Sangma has suggested operating double-engined choppers instead of single- engine aircraft in the northeast region.

However, a PHHL official here said that was not an issue.

“Many helicopters with double-engines, including that of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and former Lok Sabha speaker G.M.C. Balayogi, have crashed in different parts of India,” he said.

The Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter carrying the chief minister and four others went missing after it took off from Tawang at 9.50 a.m. Saturday. The last radio contact with the ground was about 20 minutes after take-off as it flew over the Sela Pass along the Chinese border.

On April 19, 17 people were killed when a PHHL helicopter crashed at the Tawang helipad located at an altitude of 11,000 feet in Arunachal Pradesh, bordering China’s Tibet region, just as it was about to land.

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